With Made in America, Claude S. Fischer draws on decades of historical, psychological, and social research to answer that question by tracking the evolution of American character and culture over three centuries. He explodes myths—such as that contemporary Americans are more mobile and less religious than their ancestors, or that they are more focused on money and consumption—and reveals instead how greater security and wealth have only reinforced the independence, egalitarianism, and commitment to community that characterized our people from the earliest years. Skillfully drawing on personal stories of representative Americans, Fischer shows that affluence and social progress have allowed more people to participate fully in cultural and political life, thus broadening the category of “American” —yet at the same time what it means to be an American has retained surprising continuity with much earlier notions of American character.
Firmly in the vein of such classics as The Lonely Crowd and Habits of the Heart—yet challenging many of their conclusions—Made in America takes readers beyond the simplicity of headlines and the actions of elites to show us the lives, aspirations, and emotions of ordinary Americans, from the settling of the colonies to the settling of the suburbs.
Studying three California communities, Fischer uncovers how the telephone became integrated into the private worlds and community activities of average Americans in the first decades of this century. Women were especially avid in their use, a phenomenon which the industry first vigorously discouraged and then later wholeheartedly promoted. Again and again Fischer finds that the telephone supported a wide-ranging network of social relations and played a crucial role in community life, especially for women, from organizing children's relationships and church activities to alleviating the loneliness and boredom of rural life.
Deftly written and meticulously researched, America Calling adds an important new chapter to the social history of our nation and illuminates a fundamental aspect of cultural modernism that is integral to contemporary life.
The promise of America has long been conceived as the promise of happiness. Being American is all about the opportunity to pursue one's own bliss. But what is the good life, and are we getting closer to its attainment? In the cacophony of competing conceptions of the good, technological interventions that claim to help us achieve it, and rancorous debate over government's role in securing it for us, every step toward happiness seems to come with at least one step back.
In Lurching toward Happiness in America, acclaimed sociologist Claude Fischer explores the data, the myths, and history to understand how far America has come in delivering on its promise. Are Americans getting lonelier? Is the gender revolution over? Does income shape the way Americans see their life prospects? In the end, Fischer paints a broad picture of what Americans say they want. And, as he considers how close they are to achieving that goal, he also suggests what might finally get them there.