Is America Breaking Apart?

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

Conclusion

The main burden of our argument is clear: America is not in any danger of breaking apart. Historical processes have worked to solidify and stabilize powerful central institutions, while suppressing possible sources of resistance. Class loyalties, so important in European politics, have been eclipsed in America, where the vast majority lump themselves together as “middle class” and assume themselves to be in general agreement on fundamental principles.1 The central challenge to industrial capitalism was defeated at the end of the nineteenth century. In the postwar years, the scandal of de jure segregation was ended, but this has not been followed by the creation of any lasting alliance amongst the less advantaged as whole. Despite the rhetorical flourishes of academic multiculturalists, potentially disruptive ethnic, religious, and racial differences have been offset by the great, vague promise of the American creed and by the relative absence of any concentrated groups of angry and humiliated minorities, although the experience of African Americans stands as a partial exception to this rule. In general, America has succeeded in diffusing the overlapping sources of difference and discontent that have played such a compelling and harmful role in Europe. It is no surprise that “[m]ost Americans remain highly patriotic and religious, believe they are living in the best society in the world, and think that their country and economy, in spite of problems, still offer them opportunity and economic security.”2

This does not mean that all is sweetness and light. The United States, like every other living society, is torn by the

____________________
1
On middle-class values, see A. Wolfe, One Nation, After All (New York: Viking, 1998); C. Perin, Belonging in America: Reading between the Lines (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988); D. McCloskey, “Bourgeois Virtue,” American Scholar (Spring 1994): 177–91.
2
S. M. Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (New York: Norton, 1996), 287–88. Wolfe, One Nation, After All, offers more recent evidence of the general satisfaction of Americans with their society.

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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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