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The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America First Edition Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0807844199
ISBN-10: 0807844195
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Editorial Reviews

Review

ÝA fine study."American Historical Review"

Review

In this engaging survey of intellectual life since the Civil War, Wilfred M. McClay portrays Americans tossing and turning in their dreams--on one side conjuring up visions of the liberal isolato striking westward, while on the other yearning to cast off narrow egotism and fall into the loving arms of the nation.--Journal of Southern History

|This is a model of intelligent and intelligible cultural history from which any student of modern America will profit.--Australasian Journal of American Studies

|[A] fine study.--American Historical Review

|This extraordinary work of cultural history traces the changing fortunes of 'self' and 'society' in American life over a period of two centuries. . . . The prose is lapidary, yet accessible; the level of historical imagination complex, yet engaging to any lively mind. Splendid work!--Thomas L. Haskell, Rice University

|[An] elegantly written and closely argued book. . . . More than a masterful work of historical recovery and interpretation, this study has important implications for contemporary political and cultural debates. By revealing the hidden connections between an antinomian individualism and the consolidation of the modern American state, McClay's learned book has much to teach us about how to master ourselves and our society.--Casey Nelson Blake, Indiana University

|A fascinating intellectual history.--America

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition edition (February 25, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807844195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807844199
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #942,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Cory Andrews on March 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a simply splendid historical analysis of the ambivalences inherent in the American character. McClay frames the issues within a process he calls "consolidation," which is the bureacratization and rationalization of American economic and political life. McClay concludes (as did Tocqueville) that the seemingly oppositional tendencies of hyper-individualism and bland conformism are in fact mutually reinforcing, symbiotic sides of the same coin. McClay's writing is poetic, and his research is painstaking. A must read for anyone interested in American history.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Karim Walker on July 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Wilfred McClay is an amazing writer whose research and evidence shine through in this book. Thorough, detailed, and lively, The Masterless shows the similarities between individualism and conformity when the two are juxtaposed . In addition, McClay also shows us the meaning of individualism and conformity in this day and age. The Masterless is an appropiate title for this book because it is a reflection of the dichotomy (indeed, paradox) of the individual's role (or lack thereof) in everyday society.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By W. Jamison VINE VOICE on March 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
Reading the description of the Grand Review - a two day parade of the army through Washington following the end of the Civil War - prompted me to wonder what it would be like if after the Iraq War we were to have the American forces march in review through Washington DC and how long it might take. Would anyone today be able to stand and watch the whole thing? The most poignant description was that of Seward recovering from his wounds in Lafayette Square honored by Sherman. (p 15) This statement (p 23) also struck me "War is the most powerful of all engines for fostering national self-consciousness, and the most reliable of all centralizing and unifying agents in human affairs." I considered this a major point since Professor McClay repeated it in a summary article besides the book, and reiterated it twice during the week while visiting UAA (for the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birthday in 2009). It struck me that he wrote this after the Persian Gulf War but before the Iraq War, though it still clearly was a point of emphasis he makes today. It certainly gives one pause for reflection. Also interesting I found was McClay's treatment of Whitman. But the Grand Review becomes a ready analogy for the book as it marches an army of American intellectual history by us developing the paradox of individualism and the search for social connectedness.
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