Why this book?
For starters an absolutely brilliant book title: beautifully capturing the complexities of American culture, at once compelled by soaring social aspirations while tending to act out of pure individualism often with disdain for social impact. The narrative abounds in identifying seemingly contradictory national impulses – imported vs. Indigenous traditions, socialism vs. libertarianism, utopian vs. prosaic undertakings, the welcoming of and resisting of others – with the author arguing that through the interaction of such opposite impulses over time the particular genius of American society evolved. Kammen delights in reminding Americans of our “unstable pluralism,” and supports William James’ conclusion that “Americanism” continues to be a “volatile mixture of hopeful good and curable bad.” Overall impressive scholarship and a delightful read.
People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization
Why should I read it?
1 author picked People of Paradox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.
What is this book about?
From the beginning, what has given our culture its distinctive texture, pattern, and thrust, according to Michael Kammen, is the dynamic interaction of the imported and the indigenous. He shows how, during the years of colonization, some ideas and institutions were transferred virtually intact from Britain, while, simultaneously, others were being transformed in the New World. As he unravels the tangled origins of our culture, he makes us see that unresolved contradictions in the American experience have created our national style. Puritanical and hedonistic, idealistic and materialistic, peace-loving and war-mongering: these opposing strands go back to the genesis of our…