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The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism [Paperback]

Robert William Fogel
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 2002 0226256634 978-0226256634
Robert William Fogel was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1993

"To take a trip around the mind of Robert Fogel, one of the grand old men of American economic history, is a rare treat. At every turning, you come upon some shiny pearl of information."--The Economist

In this broad-thinking and profound piece of history, Robert William Fogel synthesizes an amazing range of data into a bold and intriguing view of America's past and future--one in which the periodic Great Awakenings of religion bring about waves of social reform, the material lives of even the poorest Americans improve steadily, and the nation now stands poised for a renewed burst of egalitarian progress.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist Fogel (Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery) ambitiously tries to integrate the history of American religion with the history of social reform and the move toward equality. Fogel says that 18th- and 19th-century America experienced three large religious revivals--or Great Awakenings--each bringing about social reforms. The first awakening began in 1730 and laid the groundwork for the American Revolution. The second began in 1800, and inspired abolitionists and temperance workers. The mandate of the third awakening, which began in 1890, was the welfare state, which culminated in the 1930s. And we are now, Fogel suggests, in the middle of a fourth awakening, which began in 1950. Fogel argues that the egalitarian platforms of the third awakening have been more or less implemented--the condition of the poorest families in America, he suggests, has improved dramatically; the labor reforms that Social Gospelers called for have been written into law; many people have access to decent health care. In order to make America even more egalitarian, says Fogel, we will need a new agenda. Leaders in the fourth great awakening, he suggests, have emphasized spiritual, rather than material, equity--they are interested in redistributing "spiritual resources" and in helping Americans of all ranks become self-actualized (he identifies spiritual assets as "a sense of purpose, self-esteem, a sense of discipline, a thirst for knowledge"). Fogel applauds the democratizing of self-realization, and he emphasizes the need to provide an education for all; he is especially keen to see more Americans pursuing higher education. Fogel's thesis is provocative, though some readers may question his emphasis on higher education, which he seems to suggest would be a panacea for all America's ills. (May)

Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

In this profound piece of intellectual history, economist and Nobel prize winner Fogel (American studies, Univ. of Chicago) advocates breaking American history up into distinctive religious revivals, or Great Awakenings. Viewing these awakenings as political events, Fogel suggests they represent "the leading edge of an ideological and political response to the accumulated technological, economic, and social changes that undermine the received culture." Focusing on these evangelical religious revivals, he concludes that our era is in the midst of a Fourth Great Awakening. This latest awakening is calling America to develop its spiritual resources to cope with the ethical implications of technological advances like transplantation, gene therapies, and nuclear proliferation. Although one might not agree with all of Fogel's perspectives, he certainly provides a historical and critical structure on which to hang long-term forecasts for American intellectual and social history. Recommended for advanced American studies and religion collections.
-Sandra Collins, Univ. of Pittsburgh
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (August 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226256634
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226256634
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,171,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
133 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Invaluable Frame-of-Reference May 1, 2000
Fogel's purpose is to provide "a framework for analyzing the movements that shaped the egalitarian creed in America." Throughout U.S. history, there have been several of these movements ("Great Awakenings") which help to explain all manner of major transformations. The First (1730-1820) is manifest in the American Revolution. Fogel observes: "Steeped in the rationalism of the Enlightenment, and harboring suspicions of the established churches, the leaders of the Revolution tended to view all political issues through the prism of natural rights rather than divine revelation."
As Fogel explains, the leaders of the The Second (roughly 1800 until 1870) "preached that the American mission was to build God's kingdom on earth....An array of reform movements [eg temperance, abolition of slavery, elimination of graft in government] sought to make America a fit place for the Second Coming of Christ." The Third (from about 1890 until the 1930s) involved a continuation of certain reforms as well as the introduction of others led by modernists and Social Gospelers who "laid the basis for the welfare state, providing both the ideological foundation and the politic drive for the labor reforms of the 1930, 1940s and 1950s, and for the civil rights reforms of the 1950 and 1960s, and for the new feminist reforms of the late 1960s and early 1970s."
In Fogel's view, the Fourth Great Awakening now underway has resulted in attacks on material corruption, the rise of pro-life and pro-family movements, campaigns for values-oriented school curricula, an expansion of tax revolt, and an attack on entitlements. Fogel observes: All of the Great Awakenings are "not merely, nor primarily, religious phenomena.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
I am a former teaching assistant for Professor Fogel and read his book as both a student and as his assistant. I have discussed the book with him in private and listened to him defend its propositions before skeptical students. I am also a student of America's religious history. I am not entirely uncritical of his argument but I believe it to be a must read for understanding where we've come from. Despite one reviewer's (Lloyd) misinformed aspertions, Professor Fogel is an historian of the first rank. He won his Nobel prize for his economic history of slavery. He is one of the founding fathers and still one of the best practitioners of scientific economic history (cliometrics). But rather than allowing his empirical approach to history make his writing arid and mathematical, his evident love of the past and its complexities shines through. It is enough of a testiment to the man's extra-ordinary ability to be objective while still being intensely interested that he, as a secular person, is able to correctly credit evangelicals and other religious people with most of the significant ethical advances in American history.
I believe the above reviews from the Wall Street Journal and Mr. Morris do a sufficient job. I am here to recommend it to you. John B. Carpenter
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Utilitarianism January 30, 2001
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Robert Fogel already demonstrated, decades ago, that he could apply econometrics to historical data to good effect. He is a founder of cliometrics, the systematic quantitative study of historical data. From railroads to slavery to nutritional improvements on work capacity, he has had few peers in penetrating tough and politically charged topics.
In this book he asks readers to conjoin political and religious movements with deeper longings for satisfaction from living. Thanks to Richard Easterlin we know that money does not buy happiness. Fogel explores what long-term tendencies in the American past sought to look beyond Benthamite utility for larger meanings. His search will not always be satifying to all readers, particularly those expecting to find a Marxian dialectic at the root of positive change.
In reading the book, non-specialists get a special treat: a non-technical survey of factors that brought on the unprecedented improvements in levels of living in North Atlantic countries over the past two hundred years.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual Programs for the Underclass September 19, 2006
These are not happy days for liberals. Something seems to have gone wrong with the government of experts-like-us that liberals have built over the last century. The idea was that poverty was "not a personal failure, but a failure of society." Liberals reversed societal failure, Fogel writes, with government programs to mitigate material inequality. The result is that the material condition of the poor is much better than it was a century ago.

But the spiritual condition of the poor has deteriorated. Things like "drug addiction, alcoholism, births to unmarried teenage girls, rape, the battery of women and children, broken families, violent teenage death, and crime are generally more severe today than they were a century ago."

This is a problem for progressives, Fogel realizes, because unless they get their act together and do something about the "maldistribution of spiritual resources" they are going to lose their political power and their program of egalitarianism.

Fogel sees new hope for progressives in the Great Awakening model developed by William G. McLoughlin in Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform. The idea is that each existential crisis in American life leads to a religious Great Awakening, and thence to political reform and renewal. If liberals can co-opt the current religious revival then they can develop programs to provide the poor in spirit with spiritual values such as a "sense of purpose," a "vision of opportunity," a "sense of the mainstream of work and life," and so on.

Never mind that such a program of spiritual values would amount to a government church.

Still, this is a worthy look at the progressives' Big Problem and deserves its four stars.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great if not difficult reading.
Written for PHD's it is quite difficult to keep up with with but is interesting if you skip a lot I wish it would have been written for the general public because the concept of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Michel Olson
1.0 out of 5 stars Ivory Tower Misinformation
Since my husband and I and most of our best friends were the first members of the "Fourth Great Awakening" I feel qualified to comment here. Read more
Published on February 26, 2008 by Linny
My first review of this book is the Customer Review dated June 6, 2000. Without retracting anything I wrote in that review or my rating of the book, I would like to supplement my... Read more
Published on January 11, 2004 by G. L. Rowsey
4.0 out of 5 stars Four stars...
I found Robert Fogel's perspective on the American cyclical progression of political/religious synthesis enlightening, and refreshing. Read more
Published on November 22, 2003 by "michele4341"
3.0 out of 5 stars Why aren't Americans Happier?
Robert Fogel discusses what he calls 'spiritual inequality", in the hope that the next american spiritual awakening 'fourth great awakening" in American religious Faith... Read more
Published on November 28, 2001 by Alessandro Bruno
1.0 out of 5 stars HOW IVORY A TOWER?
While Dr Fogel's development of the Great Awakening model of US history is interesting, and may shed some light on present cultural attitudes, I find his bright-eyed optimism for... Read more
Published on July 19, 2000 by Larry D Rinehart
2.0 out of 5 stars A 300 page Introduction
The author of this book seems to have hit upon an interesting structuring of American history, but fails to provide much in the way of new analysis or interesting predictions. Read more
Published on July 5, 2000 by Adam Schaeffer
1.0 out of 5 stars A Nobel Prize for Stupid?
If there were, Fogel would have a chance to add a second Prize to his earlier one for Economics. Consider this book purporting to describe the wellsprings of social improvement in... Read more
Published on June 6, 2000 by lloyd rowsey
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