Making Americans: An Essay on Individualism and Money

Quentin Anderson, Author
Quentin Anderson, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $21.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-15-155941-1
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
Hardcover - 978-0-517-11178-9
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This densely erudite volume examines writers who have grappled with American culture by preaching individual transformation rather than social change. Anderson ( The American Henry James ) begins with Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman, showing how their views conflicted with those of the more socially oriented Hawthorne and suggesting that Melville offered a middle ground. John Dewey, he writes, attempted to unite Emersonian individuals as ``the bearers of civilization,'' while Henry James's view of selfhood, which American intellectuals embraced in the 1950s, merely allowed the individual to escape from communal life, and ``has not cracked the money firmament under which we walk.'' Anderson's supposition that in America, in contrast to Europe, money is ``the containing framework of our culture'' deserves more exposition. He does not attempt explicitly to link his theme to political life until late in the book, when he suggests that those who turned to psychoanalysis, embraced Communism or dropped out of society like the Beats were as deeply influenced by ideas of radical individualism as their 19th-century forebears had been. (Nov.)
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