American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation by Robert Wuthnow

By Robert Wuthnow

The US was once equipped on tales: stories of thankful immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, Horatio Alger-style modifications, self-made males, and the Protestant paintings ethic. during this new booklet, popular sociologist Robert Wuthnow examines those so much American of stories--narratives approximately individualism, immigration, good fortune, faith, and ethnicity--through the eyes of contemporary immigrants. In doing so, he demonstrates how the "American mythos" has either legitimized American society and avoided it from totally figuring out its beliefs. This magisterial paintings is a mirrored image and meditation at the nationwide awareness. It info how americans have normally trusted narratives to deal with what it skill to be powerful, morally liable contributors and to provide an explanation for why a few everyone is extra profitable than others--in brief, to assist us make experience of our lives. however it argues that those narratives have performed little to assist us confront new demanding situations. We cross legislation to finish racial discrimination, but lack the get to the bottom of to create a extra equitable society. We welcome the assumption of pluralism in faith and values, but we're shaken by way of the problems immigration offers. We champion prosperity for all, yet dwell in a rustic the place households are nonetheless homeless. American Mythos aptly files this disconnect among the tales we inform and the truth we are facing. analyzing how cultural narratives would possibly not, and sometimes don't, replicate the truth of modern society, it demanding situations readers to develop into extra reflective approximately what it skill to reside as much as the yank excellent.

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Extra resources for American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short

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That was clear in the examples I presented in the previous chapter. In the antebellum period and again during and after World War II, social renewal was accomplished—and limited—by a shift in narratives about the moral qualities of individuals and about their ability to make morally responsible decisions. In these early years of the twenty-first century, I believe we must again look closely at how we think about individualism. Doing so necessitates revisiting how the debate about individualism has shifted in recent decades, developing a clearer understanding of the importance of “embedded selves,” and examining the role that narratives play in our ability to reflect on ourselves.

This is especially so when we consider the narratives of new immigrants themselves. Despite differences in national origins, these immigrants have often adopted as- D E E P C U LT U R E A N D D E M O C R AT I C R E N E WA L 37 sumptions about the United States that sound strikingly familiar. Examining these assumptions can provide new perspective on what we so often take for granted. Indeed, the American mythos consists so much of stories about—and by—immigrants that understanding these stories is an excellent way of grasping how the deep meanings of our culture are constructed.

Yet they also exemplify changes that were lasting and significant, affecting hearts and minds, rather than only involving propaganda and other measures needed to fight the war. From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of World War II, the United States experienced an almost steady move toward greater national integration and a more distinct sense of its national identity. 37 At the start of World War II, the nation nevertheless had relatively little of the cultural integration that actually linked individual citizens with the federal government and with other national organizations of the kind that would be present by the early 1950s.

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