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Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Evolution (Cultural Studies of the United States) Paperback – November 18, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution is an achievement of considerable sophistication and virtuosity. It is in some ways a pathbreaking cultural study, filled with boldly original arguments and provocative reinterpretations of familiar material.--Indiana Magazine of History

[A] provocative juxtaposition of economic and intellectual history.--Journal of American History

[Livingston's] discussions, often lengthy and learned, of marginalist economic theory, James's use of the term 'cash-value,' Lewis Mumford's misguided romanticism, Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, and the New Woman are, quite simply, brilliant.--American Historical Review

Review

With this book, James Livingston joins the very select company of Americanists who have successfully initiated a dialogue between economic and cultural history. He rethinks the transition from proprietary to corporate capitalism, and from producer to consumer society. . . . This is a dazzling, innovative interpretation--admirable in its sweep and fascinating in its details and local insights. Livingston writes memorably across a wide range of disciplines, and he does so without ever sacrificing complexity. A remarkable achievement.--Michael T. Gilmore, Brandeis University|Provocative, polemical, scolding, prophetic, Livingston's book proposes a brilliant new interpretation of the origins and character of modernity in the United States. . . . An integrated work of criticism and history, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution raises a host of issues in the process of teaching its lessons, not least of which is its own example of cultural studies as history with an eye on the future.--Alan Trachtenberg, from the Foreword|This book ranks among those of first importance in the interpretation of modern American intellectual history, and because it is especially rich in relating intellectual history to economic, social, and cultural history, it is of similar importance in the interpretation of modern American civilization more broadly.--Martin J. Sklar, Bucknell University|James Livingston's new book brilliantly reanimates the vocabulary of American pragmatism and brings into new alignment America's greatest contribution in philosophy with our economic and social history.--Richard Poirier, Rutgers, The State University|Few books are as ambitious as James Livingston's study of the cultural revolution that, he persuasively demonstrates, took place in the United States . . . between 1890 and 1920. Livingston engages with boundless energy and intelligence technicalities of economic development, the nation's literary traditions, thorny philosophical questions, and finally debates about the most effective way to conduct cultural analysis.--Nineteenth-Century Prose|This is a remarkably compelling example of cross-disciplinary work. An expert in social and economic history, Livingston has reached deeply into the resources of literary and cultural theory to produce a new narrative and analytic frame for understanding the world we live in. This book will greatly reward all serious scholars and students of American culture.--Jonathan Arac, University of Pittsburgh
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Product Details

  • Series: Cultural Studies of the United States
  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (November 18, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807846643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807846643
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,242,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Livingston has taught history at Rutgers since 1988. Before then, he taught at a community college, a maximum-security prison, a small liberal-arts college, and three state universities. He's the author of five books, beginning with Origins of the Federal Reserve System (1986), on topics in economic, intellectual, social, and cultural history. His published essays include studies of Shakespeare, banking reform, cartoon politics, pragmatism, diplomatic history, Marxism, slavery and modernity, feminism, corporations and cultural studies, psychoanalysis, capitalism and socialism. He lives in New York City.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Seaboard Lit Prof on January 30, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the largest contributions of this book is its effort to combine economic history with cultural analysis. Livingston takes the time to distinguish important structural changes in the US economy during this period (1850-1940). More cultural historians and critics should grapple with this material--Livingston can wean us off of blanket labels ("incorporation," "Gilded Age") that leave no room for thinking through the more dynamic relations of the economic and the cultural.

A second virtue of this book is Livingston's provocative, polemic argument. Although his political sympathies are with the left, he offers a strong critique of the tendency among left historians to see the emergence of corporate capitalism as the effective end to any chance for victory on the left. This "tragic" mode of analysis, Livingston argues, means we can only remain mired in a nostalgic orientation toward the past. Livingston turns to two cultural formations--literary naturalism (especially the fiction of Theodore Dreiser) and pragmatism (especially William James)--to argue for a "social self" that offers hope for political progress but is not inherently at odds with corporate capitalism. I'm still not sure if I buy Livingston's argument, but his frame of analysis and reflections on history and models of selfhood are tremendously fruitful.

Although the book is largely an advanced academic study, it is clearly written and free of jargon. Well read students of American history and culture will be able to follow the analysis.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Michael H. Goldhaber mgoldh@well.com on November 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a work of conceptual brilliance, in its argument about why pragmatism occurred when it did, its cultural ramifications and its current importance. In addition Livingston illuminatingly connects pragmatism with post-modernism.
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