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People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (Walgreen Foundation Lectures) 3rd Impression 1958 Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226676333
ISBN-10: 0226676331
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David M. Potter (1910-1971) was a professor of history at Yale University and, at the time of his death, Coe Professor of American History at Stanford University.
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Product Details

  • Series: Walgreen Foundation Lectures
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 3rd Impression 1958 edition (October 15, 1958)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226676331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226676333
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
"The People of Plenty" is one of the most interesting books I have read in the past two years: informative, instructive, entertaining, challenging, provocative. The book deals with the effects of economic abundance on the American national character as a relationship between history and the behavioral sciences. It is organized in two major parts. Part I outlines the concept of national character from the viewpoints of the historian and behavioral scientist. Part II is about how economic abundance has shaped the American character.

To begin with, if Arthur Schlesinger Jr. is correct that "History is to a Nation what Memory is to an individual", national character is the changing memory of a nation. This is no new assertion, but the author argues that popular generalizations of national character are incorrect. They weave traits and habits in there descriptions, and so they "show how badly the true analysis of national character will be hindered if historians, like the blindmen who examined the elephant, mistake the part for the whole" (p. 13). The problem is that nations are made up of people, and people's characteristics are cultural, political, economic, historical, and so on. Rather than nation units defining character, national character may be conceived as a national culture expressed as a political unit called a nation.

Previous explanations of national character, and here the author sweeps the canvas as only a historian can do, have been flawed. Many paid little attention to what character actually is, or "how they would define the `nation' as the unit to which the character is attributed" (p.20).
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the seminal books on understanding what it means to be an American, and on what makes our character distinctive, if not utterly unique. Potter was a remarkable professor of American History at Stanford, where his final lecture in my Junior year taught me what the phrase " the crowd lept to its feet" meant. Among other remarkable traits, Potter never once uttered that or any other cliche in those lectures or in this extraordinary book. The work of a giant, engaging and accessible to almost anyone.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Insightful even after all of the years as this very concept of abundance is starting to be questioned and Americans realize more and more how finite our resources really are. For most other civilizations, abundance did not play a role , rather scarcity did.
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