By Robert Wuthnow
The US was once outfitted on tales: stories of thankful immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, Horatio Alger-style adjustments, self-made males, and the Protestant paintings ethic. during this new booklet, well known sociologist Robert Wuthnow examines those such a lot American of stories--narratives approximately individualism, immigration, good fortune, faith, and ethnicity--through the eyes of contemporary immigrants. In doing so, he demonstrates how the "American mythos" has either legitimized American society and avoided it from absolutely understanding its beliefs. This magisterial paintings is a mirrored image and meditation at the nationwide cognizance. It information how american citizens have regularly depended on narratives to deal with what it potential to be powerful, morally in charge members and to provide an explanation for why a few everyone is extra winning than others--in brief, to aid us make experience of our lives. however it argues that those narratives have performed little to aid us confront new demanding situations. We move legislation to finish racial discrimination, but lack the unravel to create a extra equitable society. We welcome the assumption of pluralism in faith and values, but we're shaken via the problems immigration offers. We champion prosperity for all, yet stay in a rustic the place households are nonetheless homeless. American Mythos aptly records this disconnect among the tales we inform and the truth we are facing. studying how cultural narratives would possibly not, and sometimes don't, replicate the truth of brand new society, it demanding situations readers to turn into extra reflective approximately what it ability to reside as much as the yank perfect.
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Extra info for American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short
This cultural mechanism was both public and private, challenging whole communities to think about such issues as drinking and slavery, but doing so in a way that D E E P C U LT U R E A N D D E M O C R AT I C R E N E WA L 31 encouraged self-transformative experiences on the part of individuals. ”32 The effects were in many ways enduring, as is revealed by the sociologist John L. 33 At the same time, the cultural means through which these new ideas of moral responsibility had been communicated were also their limitation.
Durkheim recognized this potential when he argued that the collective consciousness of a society is typically shaped by the stories that grow out of major crises and other turning points in the life of a people—such episodes as the founding of their society, a crisis of succession in leadership, a natural catastrophe, or a violent conflict. Durkheim believed, as Tocqueville did more specifically 26 CHAPTER 1 in reference to democracies, that societies tend to run down or lose steam over time. People gradually forget the collective values and the events that infused these values with meaning.
It includes similarly profound efforts to promote gender equality, at least one result of which has been a huge rise in women’s participation in the paid labor force and nearly equal gender representation in many fields of higher education. 51 The past four decades have also witnessed more immigration than has any period since the 1920s. Since immigration policies were reformed in 1965, some 22 million immigrants have come to the United States legally, and as many as 7 to 10 million have come as undocumented workers.