This America The case for the nation

Jill Lepore, 1966-

Book - 2019

"From the best-selling author of These Truths, a work that examines the dilemma of nationalism and the erosion of liberalism in the twenty-first century. At a time of much despair over the future of liberal democracy, Harvard historian Jill Lepore makes a stirring case for the nation in This America. Since the end of the Cold War, Lepore writes, American historians have largely retreated from the idea of 'the nation,' in part because postmodernism has corroded faith in grand narra...tives, and in part because the rise of political nationalism has rendered it suspect and unpalatable. Bucking this trend, however, Lepore argues forcefully that the nation demands scrutiny. Without an honest reckoning with America's collective past, we will be at the mercy of unscrupulous demagogues who spin their own version of the national story for their own purposes. 'When serious historians abandon the study of the nation,' Lepore tellingly writes, 'nationalism doesn't die. Instead, it eats liberalism.' A trenchant work of political philosophy as well as a reclamation of America's national history, This America asks us to look our nation's sovereign past square in the eye to reveal not only a history of contradictions, but a path of promise for the future"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation [2019]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
150 pages ; 19 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [141]-150).
ISBN
9781631496417
1631496417
Main Author
Jill Lepore, 1966- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Historian and best-selling author Lepore follows her comprehensive These Truths: A History of the United States (2018) with an urgent and pithy book-length essay in which she argues for the viability of the nation. Readers seeking clear and relevant definitions of political concepts will appreciate this brisk yet thorough, frank, and bracing look at the ancient origins of the nation state versus the late-eighteenth-century coinage of the term "nationalism" and its alignment with exclusion and prejudice. Lepore succinctly observes, "Patriotism is animated by love, nationalism by hate." She also reminds us that liberalism is the belief in individuals and human-rights-based governance. Lepore tracks the "ongoing dispute between federal power and states' rights" and the evolving criteria for citizenship as America became a "nation to which anyone who affirms its civic ideals belongs." Yet each new wave of immigrants has instigated harsh reactions, while people of color, women, and others are still fighting for equality. "The nation is that battle," Lepore writes, placing today's conflicts in context and calling for us to continue the struggle to deepen and protect American democracy. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Since the 1970s, claims Lepore (Harvard Univ.; These Truths), scholars have made more of an effort to emphasize the contributions of women, African Americans, and indigenous peoples. Lepore does not deny this importance because these groups were largely ignored by white men writing history and controlling governments. This concise volume calls for refocusing American history on the nation as a single entity because, as the author states, if people don't acknowledge their past, it will be interpreted by extremists with specific agendas. Lepore presents a fascinating appraisal of the history of American nationalism, stressing that by the mid-20th century it had been diminished from a patriotic love of country to a violent hatred of the other. Liberalism is promoted as the foundation for a current American nationalism: a government that protects the rights of its citizenry. The 14th and 15th Amendments are depicted as the roots of modern U.S. liberalism, and Lepore draws on the work of abolitionists and intellectuals such as Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Dubois to bolster her argument. VERDICT This is a call to reconsider what it means to be an American and for advocating liberalism as a corrective for "illiberal nationalism" pervading the country. Informed readers, especially historians, will welcome Lepore's nuanced, graceful interpretation.—Karl Helicher, formerly with Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

In this somewhat underdeveloped "long essay," historian Lepore (These Truths) sets out to summarize nationalism for a lay audience and rally historians to fight against its encroaching presence in American life. She takes readers through a history of nationalism's contradictory and overlapping meanings, skipping between debates among the country's founders and Donald Trump's recent self-identification as a nationalist in order to examine the moral and philosophical struggles of citizenship, nationalism, and identity in a country that has at one time or another espoused everything from universal suffrage to the stripping of citizenship from those who cannot pass for white. Lepore differentiates between patriotism and nationalism and, in a move that may surprise readers, blames the 20th- and 21st-century resurgences of nationalism on historians who failed to construct a convincing, patriotic counternarrative as a bulwark against it (a mantle she took up herself with These Truths). While Lepore's sense of personal urgency in taking up this topic is clear, the structure here is choppier and more repetitive than in previous works. Readers expecting Lepore's usual precision and depth in characterizing the historical record will be disappointed. (May) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Presents a history of nationalism, discussing the difference between it and patriotism and examining the erosion of liberalism.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"From the best-selling author of These Truths, a work that examines the dilemma of nationalism and the erosion of liberalism in the twenty-first century. At a time of much despair over the future of liberal democracy, Harvard historian Jill Lepore makes a stirring case for the nation in This America. Since the end of the Cold War, Lepore writes, American historians have largely retreated from the idea of 'the nation,' in part because postmodernism has corroded faith in grand narratives, and in part because the rise of political nationalism has rendered it suspect and unpalatable. Bucking this trend, however, Lepore argues forcefully that the nation demands scrutiny. Without an honest reckoning with America's collective past, we will be at the mercy of unscrupulous demagogues who spin their own version of the national story for their own purposes. 'When serious historians abandon the study of the nation,' Lepore tellingly writes, 'nationalism doesn't die. Instead, it eats liberalism.' A trenchant work of political philosophy as well as a reclamation of America's national history, This America asks us to look our nation's sovereign past square in the eye to reveal not only a history of contradictions, but a path of promise for the future"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

This AmericaThese TruthsThis AmericaThis AmericaThis America

Review by Publisher Summary 4

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