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The Simple Life: Plain Living and High…

The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture (original 1985; edition 2007)

by David Shi (Author)

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1203163,253 (3.96)None
Our current less-is-more impulse may have contemporary trappings, says David E. Shi, but the underlying ideal has been around for centuries. From Puritans and Quakers to Boy Scouts and hippies, our quest for the simple life is an enduring, complex tradition in American culture. Looking across more than three centuries of want and prosperity, war and peace, Shi introduces a rich cast of practitioners and proponents of the simple life, among them Thomas Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Addams, Scott and Helen Nearing, and Jimmy Carter. In the diversity of their aspirations and failings, Shi finds that nothing is simple about our mercurial devotion to the ideal of plain living and high thinking. "Difficult choices are the price of simplicity," he writes in the book's revised epilogue. Although we may hedge a bit in the practice of simple living, and are now and then driven by motives no deeper than nostalgia, Shi stresses that our efforts to avoid anxious social striving and compulsive materialism have been essential to the nation's spiritual health. Book jacket.… (more)
Title:The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture
Authors:David Shi (Author)
Info:University of Georgia Press (2007), 344 pages
Collections:Your library, Completed (inactive)

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The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture by David E. Shi (Author) (1985)


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A scholarly retelling of the history of the United States that focuses on the seemingly endless tension in North American culture between the liberty of independence (self-sufficient worth, contentment) versus the compulsion for personal achievement (accumulation, status-seeking, wealth). In Shi's account, this thread runs through history almost as a cultural pendulum, ever swinging and, in a sense, over-correcting, between the poles of rugged asceticism and wanton greed. Well written, fascinating framing of American studies with a history of ideas orientation.
  jamesshelley | Aug 20, 2019 |
A scholarly, well balanced and readable analysis of the historical struggle between materialism and post-materialism in American culture. The trouble is that the post-materialism so often regresses. ( )
  bkinetic | Oct 17, 2010 |
Best treatise on voluntary simplicity and materialism. This terrific historian is president of Furman University. (Biography Link Here)
  W212 | Mar 8, 2007 |
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In 1920 the Spanish-born Harvard philosopher George Santayana observed that the American had always been "an idealist working on matter."
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