A World Suffused by Money

John Dewey, Neil Coughlan thought, I was "the philosopher par excellence of American liberalism" because "he shared with it the root conviction that we can have both self-defined self-fulfillment and social justice for all." This sunny picture of human nature can hardly be squared with modern or contemporary history. Nevertheless, as Quentin Anderson argues, the "historical fact appears to be that American intellectuals show a reluctance or inability to admit that any limitation of the goal of 'self-fulfillment' is implied by membership in the community." So Dewey is one of Anderson's targets in the present book.

In an earlier work of great distinction and continuing influence, The Imperial Self An Essay in American Literary and Cultural History, published in 1971, Anderson argued that fantasies of a transcendental, imperious, self-begotten, and self-created individuality were promoted with enduring effect by Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. Their post-Christian, post-moral, and antisocial project influenced and inspired a broad range of American artists and intellectuals, encouraging a pervasive "culture of Narcissism" that reemerged with radical force in the late I950's and after in the self-referential "Beat" writers. Making Americans refines and applies this analysis by showing The Imperial Self's relation and reaction to the laissez...

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