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The American Dream : A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation - Jim Cullen

The American Dream

A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation

Paperback Published: 14th June 2004
ISBN: 9780195173253
Number Of Pages: 224

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"The American Dream" is one of the most familiar and resonant phrases in our national lexicon, so familiar that we seldom pause to ask its origin, its history, or what it actually means. In this fascinating short history, Jim Cullen explores the meaning of the American Dream, or rather the several American Dreams that have both reflected and shaped American identity from the Pilgrims to the present. Cullen begins by noting that the United States, unlike most other nations, defines itself not on the facts of blood, religion, language, geography, or shared history, but on a set of ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and consolidated in the Constitution. At the core of these ideals lies the ambiguous but galvanizing concept of the American Dream, a concept that for better and worse has proven to be amazingly elastic and durable for hundreds of years and across racial, class, and other demographic lines. Cullen then traces a series of overlapping American dreams: the quest for of religious freedom that brought the Pilgrims to the "New World"; the political freedom promised in the Declaration; the dream of upward mobility, embodied most fully in the figure of Abraham Lincoln; the dream of home ownership, from homestead to suburb; the intensely idealistic-and largely unrealized-dream of equality articulated most vividly by Martin Luther King, Jr. The version of the American Dream that dominates our own time - what Cullen calls "the Dream of the Coast" - is one of personal fulfilment, of fame and fortune all the more alluring if achieved without obvious effort, which finds its most insidious expression in the culture of Hollywood. For anyone seeking to understand a shifting but central idea in American history, The American Dream is an interpretive tour de force.

Industry Reviews

"One man's provocative, worthwhile, and stimulating summation."--Kirkus Reviews "This erudite popular history poses a provocative question: What is the American Dream?"--Herbert Mitgang, The Chicago Tribune "The American dream, as Jim Cullen shows in this useful, intelligent book, is more than a set of platitudes, and says something important about our national character."--The Boston Globe "Cullen combs the riches of American history to analyze the American dream idea.... From these rich slices of American history, Cullen weaves a historical quilt illustrating key components of the idea.... This work combines the author's personal reflections with a cogent interpretation of American social and intellectual history."--Library Journal "Its straightforward and engaging narrative style ought to appeal to general readers of American history, and its broader explorations of freedom, equality and shared ideals offers a nice dose of depth as well."--Publishers Weekly "Cullen is a master of the difficult art of distilling complex ideas without oversimplifying them. His grasp of American history is impressive, and his narrative is lucid, lively, and engaging. He has done an admirable job of summarizing, dramatizing, and giving a sense of personal urgency to successive versions of the American dream. I find the mixture of personal reflection and historical narrative quite effective and inviting. This is a refreshing, spirited book."--Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University "Jim Cullen's The American Dream is a tour de force through the whole of American history, from the Puritans to home ownership and California. Cullen daringly takes the notion of the American Dream as a touchstone for a huge swathe of American cultural history, and tracks its complexities, its shifts and conflicts--and unities. Gracefully written, elegantly unified, respectful toward disparate ideas, never indulgent of scholastic gobbledygook, the book has all the strength of its simplifications. A marvelous achievement." --Todd Gitlin, Columbia University

The American Dreamp. 2
Introduction A Dream Countryp. 3
Dream of the Good Life (i): the Puritan Enterprisep. 11
Dream Charter: the Declaration of Independencep. 35
Dream of the Good Life (ii): Upward Mobilityp. 59
King of America: the Dream of Equalityp. 103
Detached Houses: the Dream of Home Ownershipp. 133
Dream of the Good Life (iii): the Coastp. 159
Conclusion: Extending the Dreamp. 185
Notes on Sourcesp. 191
Acknowledgmentsp. 201
Indexp. 205
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195173253
ISBN-10: 0195173252
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 224
Published: 14th June 2004
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 19.68 x 13.34  x 1.27
Weight (kg): 0.17

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