Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life / Edition 3by Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan
Pub. Date: 09/17/2007
Publisher: University of California Press
First published in 1985, Habits of the Heart continues to be one of the most discussed interpretations of modern American society, a quest for a democratic community that draws on our diverse civic and religious traditions. In a new preface the authors relate the arguments of the book both to the current realities of American society and to the growing/i>
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American individualism runs back to the beginning of our country, but so does a sense of the common good. Bellah shows us our heritage, and the historical traditions which exist to fix what ails us today. It is a book we NEED to read.
There is much for all Americans to learn from this book, which takes its rightful place along side other classic studies of the American character, the most famous of which, 'Democracy in America' 'Alesis de Tocqueville, 1835' they honor in the book's title. As highly as I rate this book, and I do believe every thoughtful American 'including those who are 'new' Americans should read this book', I was disappointed in the author's recommendations for curing our national malaise. de Tocqueville's phrase, 'Habits of the Heart', might loosely be translated as 'ties that bind', referring to those mores and practices common to a people that make a society more than just the sum of its individuals and promote a spirit of concern in each that speaks to the common good of all. The authors suggest, as antidotes for our national malaise, institutional changes engineered by a professional elite that would reinvigorate some of our older virtues that made life worth living and contributed to a shared feeling of a common good. If history can teach us anything, it is that the past is never returned to. Even more than this, de Tocqueville¿s phrase, ¿Habits of the Heart¿, which at first may seem an unusual way to refer to mores and common practices a society shares, is really the insight that those things that bind individuals together as a people and a society, must come from the heart. If we are to find a cure for our national malaise, it must come from the people, from the spirit of idealism that has always been part of the American character.