Transnational America: Cultural Pluralist Thought in the Twentieth Century

Overview

In Transnational America, Everett Akam brilliantly addresses one of the most fundamental issues of our time—how Americans might achieve a sense of racial and ethnic identity while simultaneously retaining the common ground of shared traditions and citizenship. Akam's study transcends the current debates over multiculturalism and cultural pluralism by retrieving the tradition of cultural pluralist thought neglected since the first half of the twentieth century. He argues that thinkers such as Randolph Bourne, John...

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Overview

In Transnational America, Everett Akam brilliantly addresses one of the most fundamental issues of our time—how Americans might achieve a sense of racial and ethnic identity while simultaneously retaining the common ground of shared traditions and citizenship. Akam's study transcends the current debates over multiculturalism and cultural pluralism by retrieving the tradition of cultural pluralist thought neglected since the first half of the twentieth century. He argues that thinkers such as Randolph Bourne, John Collier, Horace Kallen, and Alain Locke sought to reconcile diversity and community by challenging the cults of individualism, universal reason, and assimilation typical of their age. Akam goes on to demonstrate how cultural pluralist thought was eclipsed during the second half of the twentieth century by an intellectual mainstream that both discounted pluralists' emphasis on culture and heralded interest-group pluralism as a model for racial and ethnic relations. Transnational America is an engaging look at the difficulty of achieving the delicate synthesis between identity and community that will be of interest to sociologists, political theorists, and historians alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal Of American History
This book is most valuable for its examination of Locke in context.
Choice
Well organized. Recommended. . . . Excellent for graduate students and above.
Vine Deloria
Akam weaves a fascinating thesis from the diverse strands of thought in our European/colonial/frontier development. Questioning why we have not created a transnational culture and insist on some form of isolation or absorption, he clarifies some of the major conceptual problems we share today. A brilliant analysis of our society as a quasi-culture.
Booknews
Akam (history, Casper College) presents a largely sympathetic intellectual history of the cultural pluralists Horace Kallen, John Collier, and Alain Locke. He argues that the cultural pluralists, although defeated on the battlefield of critical theory, offer valuable lessons for American society. The early cultural pluralists' ideas achieved an integration of particularism with universalism within the sphere of democratic culture. Later cultural pluralists rejected their notion that the Beloved Community could be premised on technical or practical reason. It is these tensions and ideas that still offer some pointers as to achieving true democratic community in the U.S., says Akam. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Robert Westbrook
Looking to a neglected past, Everett Akam offers a richer perspective on the tensions between diversity and community than that afforded by contemporary 'identity politics' and its critics. Carefully recovering the insights of an earlier generation of 'cultural pluralists,' he evokes a compelling vision of difference within unity which promised an American identity that averted the perils of both stifling homogeneity and divisive separatism.
CHOICE
Well organized. Recommended. . . . Excellent for graduate students and above.
Journal of American History
This book is most valuable for its examination of Locke in context.
Christopher Shannon
Confounding the standard academic division of labor, Akam blends the intellectual histories of pragmatism, ethnicity and race into a highly original synthesis organized around the concept of cultural pluralism. Rejecting both tribalism and universalism, he calls for an ideal of diversity in unity that respects the irreducible particularity of distinct cultures while still maintaining a common national culture capable of uniting people across their local cultural communities. Akam's powerful, concluding tribute to the Civil Rights Movement as the most significant, if short-lived, historical embodiment of this pluralist ideal should serve as the starting point for all future discussions of multiculturalism in America.
Casey Nelson Blake
Akam's Transnational America captures better than any previous work the philosophical aspirations of the early-twentieth century cultural pluralists. Bourne, Kallen, Collier, and Locke emerge here not only as critics of the 'melting-pot ideal,' but as thinkers engaged with the most vital issues of modernity. Their inquiry into the nature of truth, values, selfhood, and community in a pluralistic universe has much to offer the contemporary debate about ethno-racial diversity and U.S. national identity. There's wisdom in this book.
Vine Deloria Jr.
Akam weaves a fascinating thesis from the diverse strands of thought in our European/colonial/frontier development. Questioning why we have not created a transnational culture and insist on some form of isolation or absorption, he clarifies some of the major conceptual problems we share today. A brilliant analysis of our society as a quasi-culture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742521988
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Series: American Intellectual Culture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 240
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Everett Helmut Akam is professor of history at Casper College.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Truth and Consequences 9
2 "Transnational America" versus the Melting Pot 45
3 Horace Kallen and the Community of Consumption 83
4 John Collier and the Red Atlantis 113
5 Merger without Fusion: Alain Locke's Cosmopolitan Pluralism 139
6 The Eclipse of Cultural Pluralist Thought 167
Epilogue: The Civil Rights Movement as Beloved Community 195
Bibliography 199
Index 213
Credits 225
About the Author 227
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