By James E. Block
During this sweeping reinterpretation of yankee political tradition, James Block bargains a brand new standpoint at the formation of the trendy American self and society. Block roots either self and society within the thought of enterprise, instead of liberty, and dispenses with the nationwide fantasy of the "sacred reason for liberty"--with the assertion of Independence as its "American scripture." as an alternative, he recovers the early glossy notion of supplier because the actual synthesis rising from America's Protestant and liberal cultural foundations. Block strains business enterprise doctrine from its pre-Commonwealth English origins via its improvement into the yankee mainstream tradition at the eve of the 20th century. the concept that of employer that prevailed within the colonies at the same time published participants 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 by means of the fashionable values and ends of private Protestant religiosity and collective liberal institutional authority. As Block exhibits, this complicated relation of self to society lies on the root of the yank personality. A state of brokers is a brand new examining of what the "first new country" did and didn't in achieving. it is going to allow us to maneuver past long-standing nationwide myths and clutch either the yank success and its legacy for modernity.
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Additional info for A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society
I trace here for the ﬁrst time the liberalization of American Protestantism in conjunction with the liberal reconciliation with its own Protestant origins. As the deﬁciencies of their individual movements manifested themselves by the post–Civil War period, American Protestantism and liberalism gradually united to complete an agency society. Its components were a liberal civil religion and a Protestant-based market economy and organiza- The American Narrative in Crisis 29 tional society. This was, despite the rhetoric of Jefferson’s Declaration, the war for independence, popular government, and the ubiquitous rhetoric of a free society of free individuals, not a society of self-authorizers but a nation of agents.
The growing energies of religious dissent were thus forced toward decentralized spaces at the margins of control, where popular inﬂuence and the support of local elites but not institutional authority could be pursued. Addressing popular concerns, the Puritan The Early Puritan Insurgents and the Origins of Agency 41 insurgency gained support among the rising cohorts in London and the countryside, until Cambridge, parishes in London, and regions throughout England had become insurgent strongholds.
Acting consciously to extend and exploit freedom, Americans from the outset produced structures. This counterintuitive process at the heart of national formation I have called the process of reversal. In order to reappropriate authority in their role as agents in a society celebrating individual freedom, they turned largely without knowing from the open ﬁeld back toward the 26 The American Narrative in Crisis community and a place within it. Moreover, though the direction changed, the conscious intention did not.
A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society by James E. Block