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Segmented Society

Introduction to the Meaning of America

By (author) Robert H. Wiebe
Genres: Sociology
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom
Published: 13th Mar 1975
Dimensions: w 140mm h 200mm
ISBN-10: 0195018397
ISBN-13: 9780195018394
Barcode No: 9780195018394

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Kirkus US
Wiebe argues that the current din of special interest groups and competing minorities is part of a uniquely American pattern. We are not "one nation" according to the European model: we are many "segments," committed to common fundamentals and rewards. Our history can be seen as change, and as a tension between parts and whole. Wiebe identifies "primary circles of identity, values, associations, and goals" which can be various "blends" of kinship, locality, occupation, religion, or geographic proximity. He divides America's past into three periods: to 1790, "a Jeffersonian vision of a gradually unfolding paradise of farms and villages"; 1830's-1890's, a "small town" era dominated by ethics of respectability and competition; 1920's-present, a proliferation of occupational specialists, "experts." Cohesion between our many segments "requires a high level of abstraction" - hence the renowned American propensity to resort to legalisms, conspiracies, and racism. This is a conceptually rich book, particularly when Wiebe places such phenomena as women's liberation, student revolt, and modern foreign policy into the context of his theory. But it is short and therefore, considering its purview, somewhat simplistic; yet on the whole it remains an enlightening fusion of the disparate American personality. (Kirkus Reviews)