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." B. Weston,
Table of contents
Acknowledgements 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 Chapter Outline 1. Introduction 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 American Mythology Social Character Today Toward A New Character Typology The Authoritarian-Destructive Orientation The Dynamics of Fear and Power The Social Dominator Summary 2. God and His Chosen People: Act II New England Appalachia The Deep South Religion, Contradictions and Character Religion and Culture The Midwest Religion and Culture Today The Religious Right and Left Religion and Social Character Summary 3. America: Chasing the Pot of Gold Character and Political-Economy Back to the Past They’re Back! 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 Summary 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 Phallic Worship God Bless American Violence Summary 5. Glory: The Rise and Fall of American Exceptionalism From Chosen to Exceptional Puritan Co-existence? 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… Exceptional…How Exactly? The Sorrows of American Exceptionalism The Unwinding of Exceptionalism American Exceptionalism is Really Authoritarianism Cultural Narcissism Summary 6. The Sorrows of American Character The Rise, Fall and Regeneration of American Character Genesis: The Rise of the Americans The Fall 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 Summary 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 Summary 8. Epilogue Resurrecting The Frankfurt School The Resurrection of Critical Theory Toward a Better Future Bibliography Index
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.