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

By Robert Wuthnow

The United States was once equipped on tales: stories of thankful immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, Horatio Alger-style adjustments, self-made males, and the Protestant paintings ethic. during this new booklet, well known sociologist Robert Wuthnow examines those so much American of stories--narratives approximately individualism, immigration, good fortune, faith, and ethnicity--through the eyes of modern immigrants. In doing so, he demonstrates how the "American mythos" has either legitimized American society and avoided it from absolutely knowing its beliefs. This magisterial paintings is a mirrored image and meditation at the nationwide cognizance. It info how american citizens have characteristically depended on narratives to handle what it skill to be powerful, morally liable members and to give an explanation for why a few everyone is extra winning 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 belief of pluralism in faith and values, but we're shaken by means of the problems immigration offers. We champion prosperity for all, yet stay 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. reading how cultural narratives won't, and sometimes don't, replicate the truth of modern society, it demanding situations readers to develop into extra reflective approximately what it ability to dwell as much as the yank excellent.

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

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Renewal through education is also more than simply transmitting adults’ values to children. As successive generations enter the public sphere, they bring youthful energy and new ideas into the democratic process. Besides instilling values in the coming generation, we sometimes try to renew civil society by encouraging more active participation among the public at large in civic associations. Renewal through civic participation addresses Tocqueville’s concern about democracy’s eroding because of a passive electorate.

Associationalism emphasizes the possibility of democratic renewal simply through people’s getting to know their neighbors and overcoming feelings of mistrust. But associationalism assumes as well that people who become more involved in their communities may also become mobilized as advocates of particular public policies. Public advocacy is a more intentional means of attaining renewal, and advocacy on behalf of social justice is perhaps the clearest example. Unlike efforts that focus on specific policy concerns, such as clean air or lower taxes, social justice advocacy emphasizes that a healthy democracy requires efforts to promote equality and equal opportunities among citizens.

The unreflective background assumptions of which civil society is composed include schemes of classification (such as race and gender) that influence our perceptions of whom we can trust and with whom we prefer to associate, and they include understandings of what is in our interest, what is in the common interest, and how we should behave in pursuing these interests. Culture as deep meaning is relevant to questions about renewal, therefore, because culture at this level is both an impediment to and a facilitator of social change.

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