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People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (Walgreen Foundation Lectures) Paperback – October 15, 1958

ISBN-13: 978-0226676333 ISBN-10: 0226676331 Edition: 3rd Impression 1958

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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: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By V.H. Amavilah on January 20, 2007
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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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 3, 1999
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan on May 12, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This short book eloquently describes the American national character as determined by the culture of material plenty. A truly insightful study that informs our national politics to this day,
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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this for a history class and absolutely loved it! Great read whether it's required for a class or if it just sparks your interest.
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