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)
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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
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