The Big Change / Edition 1

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Overview

Frederick Lewis Allen was one of the pioneers in social history. Best known as the author of Only Yesterday, Allen originated a model of what is sometimes called instant history, the reconstruction of past eras through vivid commentary on the news, fashions, customs, and artifacts that altered the pace and forms of American life. The Big Change was Allen’s last and most ambitious book. In it he attempted to chart and explain the progressive evolution of American life over half a century. Written at a time of unprecedented optimism and prosperity, The Big Change defines a transformative moment in American history and provides an implicit and illuminating perspective on what has taken place in the second half of the twentieth century.

Allen’s theme is the realization, in large measure, of the promise of democracy. As against the strain of social criticism that saw America as enfeebled by affluence and conformity, Allen wrote in praise of an economic system that had ushered in a new age of well being for the American people. He divides his inquiry into three major sections. The first, “The Old Order,” portrays the turn-of-the-century plutocracy in which the federal government was largely subservient to business interests and the gap between rich and poor portended a real possibility of bloody rebellion. “The Momentum of Change” graphically describes the various forces that gradually transformed the country in the new century: mass production, the automobile, the Great Depression and the coming of big government, World War II and America’s emergence as a world power. Against this background, Allen shows how the economic system was reformed without being ruined, and how social gaps began to steadily close.

The concluding section, “The New America,” is a hopeful assessment of postwar American culture. Allen’s analysis takes critical issue with many common perceptions, both foreign and domestic, of American life and places remaining social problems in careful perspective. As William O’Neill remarks in his introduction to this new edition, The Big Change is both a deep and wonderfully readable work of social commentary, a book that gains rather than loses with the years.

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Editorial Reviews

Christian Science Monitor
It is important for Americans to understand their commitment to sound social change. Mr. Allen writes the history well.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560006398
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/15/2007
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Lewish Allen (1890-1954) was editor of Harper’s Magazine from 1941 to 1954. His other books include The Great Pierpont Morgan, Since Yesterday, and The Lords of Creation.

William L. O’Neill is professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University. He has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellowship and the Rutgers Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research. He is the author of numerous books, including The New Left: A History; American High: The Years of Confidence, 1945-1960; and The Last Romantic.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Edition
Foreword
Pt. 1 The Old Order
1 A New Century Begins 3
2 Grandeur, Limited 27
3 The Other Side of the Tracks 49
4 Capitalism Indeed 63
5 Government on the Sidelines 81
Pt. 2 The Momentum of Change
6 The Revolt of the American Conscience 95
7 The Dynamic Logic of Mass Production 109
8 The Automobile Revolution 121
9 Indian Summer of the Old Order 131
10 The Great Depression 145
11 The Reluctant World Power 158
12 Ole Ark A'Moverin' 177
13 Faster, Faster 187
14 More Americans, Living Longer 199
Pt. 3 The New America
15 The All-American Standard 209
16 Corporations, New Style 234
17 The Spirit of the Times 259
18 What Have We Got Here? 284
Appendix: Sources and Obligations 295
Index 299
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