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The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226256634
ISBN-10: 0226256634
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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (August 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226256634
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226256634
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Al Jawad on August 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By William mcgreevey on 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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Format: Hardcover
Nobel Laureate Robert William Fogel (1926-2013) upset the historical discipline throughout his entire career. One of his first major works, "Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History" (1964), used sophisticated statistical analysis to overturn the traditional assertion that railroads in the nineteenth century greatly stimulated American economic growth by making a strong case that the impact was actually quite small, only about 2.7% of 1890 GNP. Moreover, Fogel, working with Stanley Engermen, published "Time on the Cross" (1974), a major quantitative reinterpretation of American slavery. It argued that Southern slavery was enormously profitable and productive, perhaps even more efficient as an economic system than free labor. It created a firestorm by arguing that since slave owners were good capitalists they were less exploitative and oppressive than previously characterized.

"The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism" is not as controversial as his study of slavery, but Fogel made the case in it that there have been four cycles of religious fervor, driven largely by evangelicalism, and this has fueled a never-ending march toward greater equality. In it he offers “a framework for analyzing the movements that shaped the egalitarian creed in America” (p. 39). One of the most interesting aspects of this book is Fogel’s characterization of these various “Great Awakenings.”

1. The First Great Awakening (1730s-1820s general dates), arose from a mixture of Enlightenment principles with greater equality. It found its greatest manifestation in the American Revolution.
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