The Liberty of Strangers: Making the American Nation

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"Tracing how Americans have confronted and relinquished but mostly clung to group identities over the past century, Desmond King here debunks one of the guiding assumptions of American nationhood, namely that group distinction and identification would gradually dissolve over time, creating a "postethnic" nation. Over the course of the twentieth century, King shows, the divisions in American society arising from group loyalties have consistently proven themselves too strong to dissolve. For better or for worse, the often-disparaged politics of multiculturalism are here to stay, with profound implications for America's democracy. Americans have now entered a post-multiculturalist settlement in which the renewal of democracy continues to depend on groups battling it out in political trenches, yet the process is ruled by a newly invigorated and strengthened state." Spanning the entire twentieth century and encompassing immigration policies, the nationalistic fallout from both world wars, the civil rights movement, and nation-building efforts in the postcolonial era, The Liberty of Strangers advances a major new interpretation of American nationalism and the future prospects for diverse democracies.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"King provides an eye-opening account of how in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a hierarchical categorization of races was part and parcel of the Progressive Movement...a valuable resource for historians and political scientists teaching courses on ethnic, racial, and mulitcultural relations...a valuable contribution by juxtaposing his narrative regarding group categories to the conventional one of individualism."--Perspectives on Politics

"The Liberty of Strangers is an incisive and significant contribution to the study of American identity. As important, it offers insights and perspectives on the problems and possibilities faced by all multiethnic democracies. It deserves an international readership." --Times Higher Education Supplement

"The Liberty of Strangers advances a major new interpretation of American nationalism and the future prospects for diverse democracies."--History Today

"Desmond King's The Liberty of Strangers is an important contribution to one of the central issues in American history. How, and at what cost, did the United States forge and sustain a strong sense of nationhood out of its highly diverse and constantly changing population? King offers no easy answers to this elusive question, but he provides a sophisticated, nuanced, and unromantic guide to its many complexities."--Alan Brinkley, Allan Nevins Professor of History, Columbia University

"The Liberty of Strangers is an imaginative re-telling of the story of American nationalism. In this breathtaking sweep of 20th century U.S. political history, domestic and international, King finds an on-going tension between a "one-nation," assimilationist approach to nationalism and a nationalism centered on recognition of distinct groups and group rights. With this important book, Desmond King adds to his impressive body of work on democratization in America."--Mary Dudziak, author of Cold War, Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy

"King has written a thoughtful and comprehensive historical analysis of cultural and political constructions of American nationalism. In The Liberty of Strangers he examines how the U.S. relied on variations on the theme of individualism to construct a myth of "one nation", whether through its educational systems, cultural events, or immigration restrictions, with particular attention to the dynamics set in motion by war and by foreign policy concerns. King argues that American history is not a steady march toward liberal individualism, and that the various attempts to impose ethnic and racial homogeneity and implement assimilation never succeeded in rooting out racial and ethnic divisions and in some ways merely enhanced them. He argues that this tension may in fact be a defining feature of American political development. Students of political development and American politics will learn a great deal from this wide-ranging work." --Tali Mendelberg, author of The Race Card

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195306439
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Author and editor of numerous books, most recently Making Americans: Immigration, Race, and the Origins of the Diverse Democracy, Desmond King is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of American Government and Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy.

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Table of Contents

1. 'One People' Nationalism
Part I
2. How to Become an American
3. Why Not All Groups are Equal
4. Choosing New Members: The Rise of Immigration Restriction
5. The Drive for Authentic Americans: World War I Nationalism
Part II
6. World War II and the Challenge to Assimilation
7. America Abroad at Home: International Pressures and Nationhood
8. Remaking the American Nation

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