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

By James E. Block

ISBN-10: 0674008839

ISBN-13: 9780674008830

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

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The result, which shattered traditional hierarchical civiliza- 24 The American Narrative in Crisis tion, was the Protestant-liberal civilization of modernity with its distinctive agency forms of authority, selfhood, and institutional organization. The term agency, while associated with liberal moral theory, emerges in early English dissent as one of several parallel terms and achieves ever greater prominence in Anglo-American Protestant discourse after the late seventeenth century. ”109 Yale president and Federalist leader Timothy Dwight speaks of humans as “moral agents,” thus capable of fulfilling “the end, for which man was made, and for which he was redeemed .

This was the period in which the dissenting culture of agency simmering in colonial society broke the bonds of traditional imperial society and the indigenous Puritan protoagency hierarchies to become a primary force in American society. Chapter 7 offers a fundamental reinterpretation of the American Revolution as a “revolution for agency,” and takes issue with previous understandings including the Hartzian thesis, the Progressive model, the civil religion paradigm, civic republicanism, and particularly the traditional notion of a struggle for liberty.

In this architectonic conception which formed the Protestant-liberal settlement, the internal conflicts and mutual antipathy on the part of each was overcome to constitute a consensual model of Protestant agency character in inclusive liberal institutions. This synthesis, “the Protestant agent in liberal society,” provided the operational consensus that underlay American national integration in the twentieth century. It forms in turn the world we have inherited and, as I discuss in the Conclusion, the vision which forms the starting point both for those who would restore traditional liberalism and those who would rethink its viability for the emerging global and postindustrial world.

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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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