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Culture as History: The Transformation of…

Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the… (1984)

by Warren Susman

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The book looks at culture, sometimes unconscious culture, both high brow and low brow as a driving force in civilization. His analysis is of American History, primarily from its inception to 1950 or so. He also points out that our view of history is also a function of the present culture.

I found it an interesting book although I did not know many of the references made. ( )
  snash | Sep 22, 2013 |
Susman provides some interesting comments on American culture, arguing that the battles taking place in America often have little to with politics. The cultural realm has seen more dramatic combat. One is between the older culture that emphasized moral rectitude while the other is more consumer driven. New forms of culture, centered around mass media and communication, have driven the new American culture.

The two strains of culture was contradictory, but not mutually exclusive. Most americans have loyalties to both to come degree. Susman looks at the interwar period and people like Henry Ford, who mass produced automobiles but also sought a simpler way of life as he aged. Susman sees these tensions as inherent in any society, but American society took a slightly different turn because the consumer-identity gained such strength.

One interesting point at the end of his work is a warning against too much ivory tower analysis. Academics who analyze American culture tend to condemn the mass produced, conformists mentality. Susman is concerned that this will lead to a condemnation of the consumers that make up American society. He fears that they would then be even further cut off in their analysis. ( )
  Scapegoats | Dec 12, 2009 |
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Book description
Culture As History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century collected 14 of Professor Susman's essays dating from the early 1960s to the 1980s, most of which had been previously published in obscure journals or appeared as contributions to other works.  With creativity, clarity, and wit, Prof. Susman takes the reader on a provocative tour of the highlights of American 20th-century culture — highbrow, lowbrow, and middlebrow.  He shows how culture itself became a battleground for competing visions of American life. Topics include the nature of American conservatism, the cultural contradictions of a consumer society, and the role of the urban experience in the development of American culture.  The book was published shortly before the author's untimely death at age 57.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394721616, Paperback)

Bringing together for the first time the best of twenty-five years of unique critical work, Warren Susman takes Us on a startling tour through the conflicts and events which have transformed the social, political, and cultural face of America in this century. Probing a rich panoply of images from the mass media and advertising, testing prevalent intellectual and economic theories, linking the revolutions in communications and technology to the rise of a new pantheon of popular heroes, Susman documents and analyzes the process through which the older, Puritan-republican, producer-capitalist culture has given way to the leisure-oriented, consumer society we now inhabit the culture of abundance.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:36 -0400)

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