Is America Breaking Apart?

By John A. Hall; Charles Lindholm | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is the result of a discovery made in the midst of conversation about the sudden academic interest in identity politics. We came to realize that we shared a perception, best expressed in the form of an injunction: forget the endless talk of difference, note that everyone is saying the same thing! In other words, the fact that anxiety about culture war is shared is itself evidence of the continuing homogeneity of american life.

Our skepticism about the supposedly broken state of the union reflects our backgrounds. As an american anthropologist who has worked on the Middle East and done research on charismatic social movements and a comparative historical sociologist familiar with Northern Ireland and the post-communist world, we are all too familiar with societies genuinely torn by violent disorders. The United States is not such a society.1 However, we seek to go beyond Skepticism to offer and account of the manner in which America has come to be held together, and to weigh the positive and negative aspects of that unity.

Stephen Graubard suggested an article on this topic;2 Peter Dougherty urged us to turn it into a book. We have benefited from the advice of Alan Wolfe, Mort Weinfeld, Anatoly Khazanov, Bob Wuthnow, Steve Kalberg, Rogers Brubaker, Cheery Lindholm, and Suzanne Staggenborg. We are indebted to all these friends, whether they share our views or not. It is worth noting, finally, that the writing of this book has been an enjoyable and wholly collaborative effort: we share responsibility for its contents.

____________________
1
We usually refer to the United States as america. This is in part in deference to ordinary usage, and in part because “United Statesian” is not an accepted adjective.
2
C. Lindholm and J.A. Hall “Is America Falling Apart?” Daedalus 126 (1997): 183-210. Please note that our views have matured over the past year.

-xi-

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Is America Breaking Apart?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Is America Breaking Apart? *
  • Contents *
  • Preface xi
  • Is America Breaking Apart? *
  • Introduction 3
  • Part One - The Growth of Political Stability 11
  • 1 - The State and the People 15
  • 2 - The National Question 31
  • 3 - The Challenge of Class 47
  • 4 - The World in America, America in the World 61
  • 5 - Reprise 75
  • Part Two - Sociability in America 79
  • 6 - Conceptual Baselines 83
  • 7 - Sacred Values 91
  • 8 - Anti-Politics in America 109
  • 9 - Ambivalence about Association 121
  • 10 - Ethnicity as Choice, Race as Destiny 129
  • 11 - Two Cheers for Homogeneity 145
  • Conclusion 149
  • Index 155
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