America, beginning as a small group of devout Puritan settlers, ultimately became the richest, most powerful Empire in the history of the world, but having reached that point, is now in a process of implosion and decay. This book, inspired by Frankfurt School Critical Theory, especially Erich Fromm, offers a unique historical, cultural and characterological analysis of American national character and its underlying psychodynamics. Specifically, this analysis looks at the persistence of Puritan religion, as well as the extolling of male toughness and America's unbridled pursuit of wealth. Finally, its self image of divinely blessed exceptionalism has fostered vast costs in lives and wealth. But these qualities of its national character are now fostering both a decline of its power and a transformation of its underlying social character. This suggests that the result will be a changing social character that enables a more democratic, tolerant and inclusive society, one that will enable socialism, genuine, participatory democracy and a humanist framework of meaning. This book is relevant to understanding America’s past, present and future.
Lauren Langman ( PhD University of Chicago, 1969) is Professor of Sociology at Loyola University of Chicago. He has published widely in critical theory and social movements, e.g.
Alienation and the Carnivalization of Society (Routledge, 2012) which he co-edited with Jerome Braun and recent volumes on hegemony and Arab Spring/Occupy.
George Lundskow (Ph.D. University of Kansas, 1999) is Professor of Sociology at Grand Valley State University. He publishes on God, Money, and Power from a class-cultural and psychoanalytic perspective and embraces work across disciplines that bring passion and insight to vital issues.
Sociologists Langman (Loyola University of Chicago) and Lundskow (Grand Valley State University) claim Erich Fromm and the Frankfurt School as their inspiration for a blistering critique of the “sinister side” of American character. They describe this aspect of American social character as "religious, industrious, independent, phallic aggressive—often racist, sexist, and xenophobic, undergirded by an authoritarian streak." Fearful white people, moved by this character, vote for plutocratic elites against their own economic interests. Yet the authors believe that the other side of American character, "premised on democratic values and egalitarian practices of caring, sharing and empathy," can be the basis of
A Sane Society in the 21st Century, the title of their projected companion volume. Not meaning their book to be an objective academic work, Langman and Lundskow "make no pretense of neutrality because such pretenses often make academic work irrelevant to the real world."
Langman and Lundskow’s fascinating
God, Guns, Gold and Glory: American Character and its Discontents shows the profound relevance today of the ideas of Erich Fromm and thereby demonstrates that Fromm’s work deserves to be rescued from the neglect that it has suffered within the academic discipline of sociology. Langman and Lundskow apply Fromm’s theory of social character in order to analyze the historical, cultural, and socialpsychological roots of right-wing politics in America today. [...] Langman and Lundskow present a cogent argument that there is such a thing as an identifiable American national character as a distinct set of ‘‘values, mores, and reflexive narratives’’ that, indeed, characterizes a people.
Charles Thorpe (University of California-San Diego), in
Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 199-200.
Table of contents
Preface: What’s the matter with the United States?
The Fault Lies Within
Enter the Frankfurt School
Changing American Social Character: The Prelude to Socialism
Erich Fromm and Social Character
The Social Character of Elites: Dominators and Destroyers
Character and Contradictions
The Origins and Rise of the Modern Social Character
The Mayflower Arrived and its Legacy Endured
The Waning of Puritanical Sexuality
Commerce and the Colonies
The Polarities of Social Character
Social Character Today
Toward A New Character Typology
The Authoritarian-Destructive Orientation
The Dynamics of Fear and Power
The Social Dominator
2. God and His Chosen People: Act II
The Deep South
Religion, Contradictions and Character
Religion and Culture
Religion and Culture Today
The Religious Right and Left
Religion and Social Character
3. America: Chasing the Pot of Gold
Character and Political-Economy
Back to the Past
The Pitchforks are Coming!
The Rise of Predatory Banksters
Too Big to Fail, To Powerful to Jail
Spoiled by Success
Detroit Falls to the Bankster Hordes
Hostile Takeovers-The Social Dominators at Work
The Social Dominator
4. Guns: Violence, Gender and American Character
God, Guns and the Colonizer
From the Seaboard Colonies to the Western Frontier
In Real America, Real Men Shoot, Kill, and Destroy
Chris Kyle—Mass Killer and American Hero
Big Balls and the Phallus in American Sport
Work and Sport
Instrumental Aggression and Character
Pom-Poms and Male Power
God Bless American Violence
5. Glory: The Rise and Fall of American Exceptionalism
From Chosen to Exceptional
De Tocqueville: On Americans as Exceptional
The Land of the Free-For White Males
Manifest Destiny—Exceptionalism as Political Doctrine
If They are not Willing…
The Sorrows of American Exceptionalism
The Unwinding of Exceptionalism
American Exceptionalism is Really Authoritarianism
6. The Sorrows of American Character
The Rise, Fall and Regeneration of American Character
Genesis: The Rise of the Americans
The Crises of Empire
Coming Soon: Election 2016 POTUS as American Character
It’s the Economy Stupid!
It’s Not Just the Economy Stupid!
Variations on a Theme
Holy Moly: Is This a Culture War Batman!
History, Social Change and Social Character
Dynamic Character Change
Sturm, Drang and the Bearers of Change
The Social Psychology of Social Movements
Needed: A War of Position
Social Movement o0rganizations
7. 49 Shades of Social Character and One More on the Way
Can Reforms Reform?
The Return of the Repressed
Progressive Regression in the Service of Humanity
Back to the Commune
The Commune as Moral Regeneration
Toward a Sane Society: Step 1-Transforming the Political Economy
Toward a Sane Society: Step 2-Democratizing Democracy
Toward a Sane Society: Step 3-After God What Comes Next
On Being and Having
What is to be Done?
To the Barricades
Resurrecting The Frankfurt School
The Resurrection of Critical Theory
Toward a Better Future
This book will appeal to numerous social scientists, students and educated readers concerned with the present course of American society by joining traditions of American Character studies with Critical Theory.