Choice, July 4, 2014: In his intriguing book, Hunnicutt examines the erosion of the pursuit of what today might be called "quality time." Labor was [once understood] to be only the ends to a means, the ultimate goal being what Hunnicutt calls "Higher Progress." Hunnicutt traces the ways in which various Americans sought to limit the hours people worked. The goal was to leave sufficient time and energy for personal enrichment, first spiritual then secular, ensuring democracy in the process. Americans have forgotten why and what they are working for. Recommended
Institute for Policy Studies, "New and Notable" books, July 15,2013: In these compelling new pages
, Hunnicutt aims at nothing less than "re-presenting" the traditional American dream as "a compelling and inspiring alternative to the current dream of eternal consumption, wealth, and work." Generations ago, Americans . . . understood that . . . the chase after unlimited wealth, . . . would never go hand in hand with the happiness that fulfilling leisure can bring. Hunnicutt believes that, too. So will his readers.Publisher's Weekly, In this ambitious book Hunnicutt traces the debasement of the "American Dream" from its original intent as a means for personal and community development to its current usage as the pursuit of material wealth. Drawing on a panoply of historical thinkers, he [traces] the progress of the concept. For example, labor activists fought for shorter work days because they wanted people to be free to pursue higher goals, at first understood as religious, but later articulated as secular tasks. He offers a provocative and valuable history of a neglected idea
.From Scott McLemee's review in Inside Higher Education Aug 28, 2013. "[The book] deserves wide attention, and would provoke a more meaningful conversation about the past, present, and future than we're likely to have otherwise." Full review at
"Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt's new book could hardly be more timely. His central theme--that the American dream once was not confined merely to ever growing levels of abundance--is all the more relevant in an era of climate science denial and anti-environmentalism of various sorts. . . I had a hard time putting Free Time down."--John Buell, author of Politics, Religion, and Culture in an Anxious Age
Has the "American Dream" become an unrealistic utopian fantasy, or have we simply forgotten what we are working for? In his topical book, Free Time, Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt examines the way that progress, once defined as more of the good things in life as well as more free time to enjoy them, has come to be understood only as economic growth and more work, forevermore.
Hunnicutt provides an incisive intellectual, cultural, and political history of the original "American Dream" from the colonial days to the present. Taking his cue from Walt Whitman's "higher progress," he follows the traces of that dream, cataloging the myriad voices that prepared for and lived in an opening "realm of freedom."
Free Time reminds Americans of the forgotten, best part of the "American Dream"-that more and more of our lives might be lived freely, with an enriching family life, with more time to enjoy nature, friendship, and the adventures of the mind and of the spirit.