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American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a…
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American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (edició 2011)

de Michael Kazin (Autor)

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A panoramic history of liberal politics in America analyzes the impact of major movements throughout the past two centuries, from abolitionism and industrial-age labor disputes to the civil-rights movement and the emergence of alternative political groups.
Membre:MelisB
Títol:American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation
Autors:Michael Kazin (Autor)
Informació:Knopf (2011), Edition: First Edition, 352 pages
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American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation de Michael Kazin

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Contrary to the hysterical rhetoric of many conservatives, the United States is unique among Western nations in the absence of a truly viable left-wing political movement. Unlike in the nations of Europe, radical and socialist parties have never succeeded in establishing more than a temporary foothold in American politics. Yet as Michael Kazin notes, their failure to establish an enduring political presence stands in stark contrast to their success in shaping the moral culture of American society. This contrast forms the core of his new, book, a survey of the American left from the early 19th century to the present day. In it, he chronicles both the battles lost by the left in American politics and the broader wars they won to change the values and attitudes of the nation over the past two centuries.

Kazin begins in the 1820s with the emergence of the first social movements dedicated to the moral transformation of the country. These groups pioneered the basic approach that would be followed by their successors: charters establishing their goals, the use of street protests to demonstrate their commitment, and the exploitation of media to broadcast their message. Though such groups pursued a range of goals, Kazin focuses on those which campaigned for the abolition of slavery and the rights of women. These movements challenged not just the legal shackles binding these groups but the prejudices underlying them as well. While the campaign for women’s rights stalled, the cause of abolitionism grew in popularity with the outbreak of the Civil War, turning “anti-slavery firebrands into respectable figures.” (pg. 49) Motivated by the moral arguments of abolitionists, Northern politicians turned the Civil War into a war for freedom, eventually bringing about the emancipation of the slaves.

Emancipation did nothing to bring about racial equality, though. Here Kazin develops another theme persistent in the history of the American left: the role of racism played in fragmenting their political efforts. Nowhere was this more evident than in the burgeoning labor movement in the nineteenth century. With the concentration of wealth becoming a pressing issue in post-Civil War America, workers sought to band together to demand more equitable treatment. Yet for all the efforts of a few activists, workers usually remained divided along racial and ethnic lines, frustrating attempts at unity. Racism also plagued the formation of a successful socialist movement in the late 19th century, with organizers forced to bow to racist attitudes in their efforts to win over working-class Americans to their cause. Kazin’s examination of socialism in America is one of the strengths of the book, as he identifies three different, yet concurrent, socialist movements that existed in the country at the turn of the century: that of midwestern workers and farmers, that of secular Jewish immigrants from Europe, and that of a “modernist left” of the bohemian communities of major cities in the northeast and midwest. In the end, though, none of these succeeded in creating a viable political movement, and collapsed amid the “Red Scare” at the end of World War I.

The political left reemerged in the 1930s amid the economic collapse of the Great Depression. Socialism had been replaced by Marxism, with a Communist Party trading obedience to the Soviet Union for financial support. With the widespread suffering of the 1930s, thousands flocked to the Communists searching for a better way, and while the party remained small, Kazin notes the disproportionate cultural influence they exerted through this period in a variety of arenas and credits them with reintroducing the issue of racial equality into the political scene. Though the Communist Party ultimately failed to establish itself more broadly, the issue of equal rights for African Americans survived the party’s collapse, taking hold as a key issue of the New Left that emerged in the 1950s. Kazin details the massive shift the New Left effected in the attitudes of most Americans towards women and minorities, yet the triumph of equality overshadowed a failure to establish an enduring radical movement in the country, a failure which impeded prospects for further change as the 20th century came to an end.

Kazin’s book is an insightful study of the history of American radicals and their impact upon the nation. In an age of historical specialization, his effort to provide an encompassing overview provides a useful account of how the left evolved over the course of American history, particularly in response to the larger social and economic forces shaping the nation’s development. Some may quibble with particular aspects of his analysis, but the overall narrative he provides is insightful and convincing. With its accessible prose and helpful bibliography at the end, this is a superb book that should be read by anyone seeking to better understand the often derided or overlooked role the left has played in shaping America into the country in which we live today. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
Książka Michaela Kazina to historia lewicy w Ameryce, prawie zupełnie nieznana w Polsce. Autor w przystępny sposób opowiada, jak "amerykańscy marzyciele" zmienili swój kraj. John Brown i abolicjoniści, Emma Goldman i sufrażystki, Eugene Debs i populiści, Martin Luther King i ruch praw obywatelskich, Allen Ginsberg i Nowa Lewica, Naomi Klein i alterglobaliści - ideały wolności i równości niesiono w Ameryce na różnych sztandarach. W imię Ojców Założycieli i Karola Marksa, amerykańskiego snu i oświeconego rozumu, z Bogiem i bez Boga - budowano instytucje i kręcono filmy, organizowano happeningi i pisano książki.



Bez politycznej władzy radykałowie w Stanach Zjednoczonych nie mieli nigdy szansy zostać tyranami. Mogli za to walczyć o poszerzenie przestrzeni „polityki tego, co możliwe”, nie tępiąc przy tym swego utopijnego ostrza.
  STOCZNIA | Feb 21, 2013 |
An easy to read political-economic-cultural history of anti-capitalist, feminist, anti-segregationist and similar socialists movements in the US, and the assimilation of their ideas into our present day values and norms. ( )
1 vota CarterPJ | Dec 7, 2011 |
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A panoramic history of liberal politics in America analyzes the impact of major movements throughout the past two centuries, from abolitionism and industrial-age labor disputes to the civil-rights movement and the emergence of alternative political groups.

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