By Claude S. Fischer
Our kingdom all started with the straightforward word, “We the People.” yet who have been and are “We”? Who have been we in 1776, in 1865, or 1968, and is there any continuity in personality among the we of these years and the approximately three hundred million humans residing within the substantially diversified the US of today?
With Made in America, Claude S. Fischer attracts on a long time of old, mental, and social examine to reply to that query through monitoring the evolution of yankee personality and tradition over 3 centuries. He explodes myths—such as that modern americans are extra cellular and no more spiritual than their ancestors, or that they're extra enthusiastic about funds and consumption—and unearths as an alternative how higher safety and wealth have merely bolstered the independence, egalitarianism, and dedication to group that characterised our humans from the earliest years. Skillfully drawing on own tales of consultant americans, Fischer exhibits that affluence and social development have allowed extra humans to take part absolutely in cultural and political existence, hence broadening the class of “American” —yet even as what it capacity to be an American has retained brilliant continuity with a lot previous notions of yankee character.
Firmly within the vein of such classics as The Lonely Crowd and Habits of the Heart—yet hard a lot of their conclusions—Made in America takes readers past the simplicity of headlines and the activities of elites to teach us the lives, aspirations, and feelings of standard americans, from the settling of the colonies to the settling of the suburbs.
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Extra resources for Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character
19 Twentieth-century Americans also ate better than their ancestors— not more calories, but more nutritious calories. Technological improvements in agricultural productivity, processing, canning, transportation, and refrigeration brought Americans everywhere relatively fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. And they brought cheaper food: a dozen eggs in 1919 cost the average worker eighty minutes of labor; in 1997, it cost ﬁve minutes. In 1901, urban white-collar workers devoted 46 percent of their total spending to food; in 1986, it was only 19 percent.
The West experienced both organized violence, in the sometimes-genocidal Indian wars, and disorganized violence among settlers in places such as mining camps and cattle towns. A Tucson, Arizona, saloonkeeper recounted in his diary of the 1870s how one man was hanged for stealing a mule and how another was paid to leave town after killing a black. ) The Northern cities had their danger zones, too: low-income, often immigrant or black neighborhoods in which the person-to-person street and saloon violence of the prewar era continued and continued to be accepted.
46 Feeling safer is another matter. The decline in highway banditry and gang attacks over the centuries probably increased, as did better health, Americans’ sense of controlling their lives—but probably not proportionately. People are frightened by news reports of dramatic crimes, especially ones reported in the local media, and they fear crime when they see ethnically different “others” around them. To the extent that modern Americans lived in more diverse communities and learned of more security 37 violent incidents than their ancestors did, they feared assault at rates beyond the true risks.