Read e-book online A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and PDF

By James E. Block

ISBN-10: 0674008839

ISBN-13: 9780674008830

During this sweeping reinterpretation of yankee political tradition, James Block bargains a brand new viewpoint at the formation of the fashionable American self and society. Block roots either self and society within the idea of enterprise, instead of liberty, and dispenses with the nationwide delusion of the "sacred reason for liberty"--with the assertion of Independence as its "American scripture." as a substitute, he recovers the early glossy belief of enterprise because the real synthesis rising from America's Protestant and liberal cultural foundations. Block lines employer doctrine from its pre-Commonwealth English origins via its improvement into the yank mainstream tradition at the eve of the 20th century. the concept that of organisation that prevailed within the colonies concurrently published participants from conventional constraints to take part actively and self-reliantly in social associations, whereas confining them inside a brand new set of commitments. person initiative used to be now firmly bounded via the trendy values and ends of non-public Protestant religiosity and collective liberal institutional authority. As Block exhibits, this complicated relation of self to society lies on the root of the yankee personality. A state of brokers is a brand new analyzing of what the "first new kingdom" did and didn't in achieving. it's going to allow us to maneuver past long-standing nationwide myths and clutch either the yankee success and its legacy for modernity.

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

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99 Seeking the principles by which the individual and society were reshaped by these theological and institutional transformations, this book treats the formation of American civilization as the product of a shift in the Western conception of human nature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that achieved its fullest expression in England. In this period, English society was confronted with growing initiative on the part of historically quiescent sectors of society in religious, political, economic, and social activity.

The Dynamic of Reversal Agency unlocks the paradox of Tocqueville’s duality, but the question remains: How did a nation submerged in the Jeffersonian discourse, turned toward an open field of potential action, ever produce institutional boundaries and limits? Put another way, what relation did the culture of freedom have to the reality of agency? Tocqueville’s difficulty in naming agency was partly because it operated beneath the level of awareness. Acting consciously to extend and exploit freedom, Americans from the outset produced structures.

Agency exists only with reference to a principal, a designator, an author/ity. The agent, to be sure, was constituted with a novel sense of its powers: to be turned into agents meant that individuals were to be released from traditional hierarchies and made initiatory and self-reliant worldly actors. Yet this greater latitude for the individual was never meant to include freedom regarding the formation of ends. Agents, dependent as emissaries must be on their warrant of authority and on the author who warrants them, were not at liberty to define their own ends.

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A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society by James E. Block

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