A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society
By: James E. Block (author)Hardback
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In this sweeping reinterpretation of American political culture, James Block offers a new perspective on the formation of the modern American self and society. Block roots both self and society in the concept of agency, rather than liberty, and dispenses with the national myth of the "sacred cause of liberty" - with the Declaration of Independence as its "American scripture". Instead, he recovers the early modern conception of agency as the true synthesis emerging from America's Protestant and liberal cultural foundations. Blck traces agency doctrine from its pre-Commonwealth English origins through its development into the American mainstream culture on the eve of the 20th century. The concept of agency that prevailed in the colonies simultaneously released individuals from traditional constraints to participate actively and self-reliantly in social institutions, while confining them within a new set of commitments. Individual initiative was now firmly bounded by the modern values and ends of personal Protestant religiosity and collective liberal institutional authority. As Block shows, this complex relation of self to society lies at the root of the American character.
"A Nation of Agents" is a new reading of what the "first new nation" did and did not achieve. It should enable us to move beyond long-standing national myths and grasp both the American achievement and its legacy for modernity.
James E. Block is Associate Professor of Political Science at DePaul University.
Preface 1. The American Narrative in Crisis Part I. The English Origins of the American Self and Society 2. The Early Puritan Insurgents and the Origins of Agency 3. The Protestant Revolutionaries and the Emerging Society of Agents 4. Thomas Hobbes and the Founding of the Liberal Politics of Agency 5. John Locke and the Mythic Society of Free Agents Part II. The Ascendancy of Agency and the First New Nation 6. The Great Awakening and the Emergent Culture of Agency 7. The Revolutionary Triumph of Agency Part III. The Dilemma of Nationhood 8. The Liberal Idyll amidst Republican Realities 9. From the Idyll: Liberation and Reversal in a World without Bounds Part IV. The Creation of an Agency Civilization 10. National Revival as the Crucible of Agency Character 11. From Sectarian Discord to Civil Religion 12. The Protestant Agent in Liberal Economics 13. John Dewey and the Modern Synthesis Conclusion: The Recovery of Agency Notes Index
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- ID: 9780674008830
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