RETURN TO GREATNESS: How America Lost Its Sense of Purpose and What It Needs to Do to Recover It

Alan Wolfe, Author . Princeton Univ. $22.95 (239p) ISBN 978-0-691-11933-5

In this timely contribution to the literature of American identity and public policy post-9/11, Wolfe (One Nation, After All ) argues that Americans both right and left lack sufficient ambition to rebuild America's greatness. Wolfe criticizes the Bush administration and the right for pursuing tax cuts for the wealthy in a time of war. And he criticizes some on the left for disdaining any notion of patriotism. Wolfe reviews recent political science and journalistic writings on national identity, and the book is a good primer on that subject—discussions involve everything from Lani Guinier's countermajoritarian philosophy to the politics of immigration. Also impressive is Wolfe's command of history and his analysis of how, in previous crises, America rose to greatness through the leadership of Hamilton, Marshall, Lincoln, and Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. Ultimately, though, Wolfe sacrifices depth for breadth. And his notion of "greatness" remains somewhat amorphous, particularly as he attempts to contrast it with national "goodness." The result is an interesting survey of history and the current debate on national identity, but one that does not add much to that discussion. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4008-2650-6
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