The endurance of American culture and character
Claude S. Fischer’s Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character has received another positive review, this time in the May 24 edition of the Financial Times. The review begins:
Everyone likes to generalise about Americans, all 300m of them. But few are likely to be able to do so with the authority of Claude S. Fischer, professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
In Made in America, Fischer embarks on a vastly ambitious project: “to sketch how American culture and character changed—or did not change—over the course of the nation’s history”, from the colonial era until now.
That he does so in fewer than 250 pages (there are 200 pages of notes), and in a readable and entertaining way, is a formidable achievement. Fischer narrows his frame of reference by considering the American people’s relationship with five basic aspects of life: physical security, material goods, social groups, public spaces and mental attitude. He concludes that, if anything, prosperity has enabled Americans to become more American, with more people aspiring to the prosperity and individual freedom that became socially and culturally embedded more than 300 years ago.