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View Full Version of PW. Oxford Univ. More By and About This Author. Buy this book. Zeebra Books. Edition: New Ed List Price: -. Books will be free of page markings. See details. See all 7 brand new listings. Buy It Now. Add to cart. About this product Product Information The American Dream is one of the most familiar and resonant phrases in our national lexicon, so familiar that we seldom pause to ask its origin, its history, or what it actually means.

In this fascinating short history, Jim Cullen explores the meaning of the American Dream, or rather the several American Dreams that have both reflected and shaped American identity from the Pilgrims to the present.


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Cullen notes that the United States, unlike most other nations, defines itself not on the facts of blood, religion, language, geography, or shared history, but on a set of ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and consolidated in the Constitution. At the core of these ideals lies the ambiguous concept of the American Dream, a concept that for better and worse has proven to be amazingly elastic and durable for hundreds of years and across racial, class, and other demographic lines.

The version of the American Dream that dominates our own time--what Cullen calls "the Dreamof the Coast"--is one of personal fulfillment, of fame and fortune all the more alluring if achieved without obvious effort, which finds its most insidious expression in the culture of Hollywood. For anyone seeking to understand a shifting but central idea in American history, The American Dream is an interpretive tour de force.

Additional Product Features Dewey Edition. His grasp of American history is impressive, and his narrative is lucid, lively, and engaging. He has done an admirable job of summarizing, dramatizing, and giving a sense of personal urgencyto successive versions of the American dream.

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I find the mixture of personal reflection and historical narrative quite effective and inviting. This is a refreshing, spirited book.

Reaching High and Deep

From these rich slices of American history, Cullen weaves a historical quilt illustrating key components of the idea He added that, "if they attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west". They welcomed the political freedoms in the New World, and the lack of a hierarchical or aristocratic society that determined the ceiling for individual aspirations. One of them explained:. The German emigrant comes into a country free from the despotism, privileged orders and monopolies, intolerable taxes, and constraints in matters of belief and conscience.

Everyone can travel and settle wherever he pleases. No passport is demanded, no police mingles in his affairs or hinders his movements Fidelity and merit are the only sources of honor here. The rich stand on the same footing as the poor; the scholar is not a mug above the most humble mechanics; no German ought to be ashamed to pursue any occupation Nor are there nobility, privileged orders, or standing armies to weaken the physical and moral power of the people, nor are there swarms of public functionaries to devour in idleness credit for.

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Above all, there are no princes and corrupt courts representing the so-called divine 'right of birth. The discovery of gold in California in brought in a hundred thousand men looking for their fortune overnight—and a few did find it. Thus was born the California Dream of instant success.

Historian H. Brands noted that in the years after the Gold Rush, the California Dream spread across the nation:. The old American Dream The new dream was the dream of instant wealth, won in a twinkling by audacity and good luck. He stressed the process—the moving frontier line—and the impact it had on pioneers going through the process. He also stressed results; especially that American democracy was the primary result, along with egalitarianism , a lack of interest in high culture , and violence.

It came out of the American forest, and it gained new strength each time it touched a new frontier," said Turner. The frontier had no need for standing armies, established churches, aristocrats or nobles, nor for landed gentry who controlled most of the land and charged heavy rents. Frontier land was free for the taking. Turner first announced his thesis in a paper entitled " The Significance of the Frontier in American History ", delivered to the American Historical Association in in Chicago.

He won wide acclaim among historians and intellectuals. Turner elaborated on the theme in his advanced history lectures and in a series of essays published over the next 25 years, published along with his initial paper as The Frontier in American History.

The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation

But there has been also the American dream , that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position The American dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily.

It has been much more than that. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands American Dream has long been associated with consumerism.

Many American authors added American ideals to their work as a theme or other reoccurring idea, to get their point across. John Winthrop also wrote about this term called, American exceptionalism. This ideology refers to the idea that Americans are the chosen ones, and that they are the light. The American Dream has been credited with helping to build a cohesive American experience, but has also been blamed for inflated expectations.

Since the s, numerous authors, such as Sinclair Lewis in his novel Babbitt , and F. Scott Fitzgerald , in his classic, The Great Gatsby , satirized or ridiculed materialism in the chase for the American dream. For example, Jay Gatsby's death mirrors the American Dream's demise, reflecting the pessimism of modern-day Americans. The two friends George and Lennie dream of their own piece of land with a ranch , so they can "live off the fatta the lan'" and just enjoy a better life. The book later shows that not everyone can achieve the American Dream, thus proving by contradiction it is not possible for all, although it is possible to achieve for a few.

A lot of people follow the American Dream to achieve a greater chance of becoming rich. Some posit that the ease of achieving the American Dream changes with technological advances, availability of infrastructure and information, government regulations, state of the economy, and with the evolving cultural values of American demographics. Similarly, in Hunter S.

Thompson depicted in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey Into the Heart of the American Dream a dark psychedelic reflection of the concept—successfully illustrated only in wasted pop-culture excess. George Carlin famously wrote the joke "it's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it". The vaunted American dream, the idea that life will get better, that progress is inevitable if we obey the rules and work hard, that material prosperity is assured, has been replaced by a hard and bitter truth.

The American dream, we now know, is a lie. We will all be sacrificed. The virus of corporate abuse — the perverted belief that only corporate profit matters — has spread to outsource our jobs, cut the budgets of our schools, close our libraries, and plague our communities with foreclosures and unemployment. The American Dream, and the sometimes dark response to it, has been a long-standing theme in American film.

For example, Easy Rider , directed by Dennis Hopper , shows the characters making a pilgrimage in search of "the true America" in terms of the hippie movement, drug use, and communal lifestyles.

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Scholars have explored the American Dream theme in the careers of numerous political leaders, including Henry Kissinger , [33] Hillary Clinton , [34] Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. In U. It was this interpretation of the American Dream for a young black man that helped establish his statewide and national reputations.

Political conflicts, to some degree, have been ameliorated by the shared values of all parties in the expectation that the American Dream will resolve many difficulties and conflicts. The ethos today implies an opportunity for Americans to achieve prosperity through hard work.

apufogyxomyh.tk According to The Dream, this includes the opportunity for one's children to grow up and receive a good education and career without artificial barriers. It is the opportunity to make individual choices without the prior restrictions that limited people according to their class, caste, religion, race, or ethnicity.

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Immigrants to the United States sponsored ethnic newspapers in their own language; the editors typically promoted the American Dream. For many in both the working class and the middle class, upward mobility has served as the heart and soul of the American Dream, the prospect of "betterment" and to "improve one's lot" for oneself and one's children much of what this country is all about. A key element of the American Dream is promoting opportunity for one's children, Johnson interviewing parents says, "This was one of the most salient features of the interview data: parents—regardless of background—relied heavily on the American Dream to understand the possibilities for children, especially their own children".


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A fundamental aspect of the American Dream has always been the expectation that the next generation should do better than the previous generation. Hanson and Zogby report on numerous public opinion polls that since the s have explored the meaning of the concept for Americans, and their expectations for its future. In these polls, a majority of Americans consistently reported that for their family, the American Dream is more about spiritual happiness than material goods.

Majorities state that working hard is the most important element for getting ahead. However, an increasing minority stated that hard work and determination does not guarantee success.