A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society

A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society

by James E. Block
     
 

ISBN-10: 0674008839

ISBN-13: 9780674008830

Pub. Date: 10/28/2002

Publisher: Harvard

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

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Overview

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.

Block traces agency doctrine from its pre-Commonwealth English origins through its development into the American mainstream culture on the eve of the twentieth 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 will enable us to move beyond long-standing national myths and grasp both the American achievement and its legacy for modernity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674008830
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
10/28/2002
Series:
Belknap Press Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
672
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

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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