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Beyond the Revolution: A History of American Thought from Paine to Pragmatism Hardcover – February 24, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

New York Observer
“In Beyond the Revolution, intellectual historian William Goetzmann reminds us that the most brazen utopian ambition of them all had nothing to do with sex or rapture, but was rather founded in the radical provisions of ‘we the people’ and those ‘certain inalienable rights.’”

New York Times Book Review
“[Goetzmann’s] strange and valuable book…is richly populated with radicals and utopians who, with one eye on the innermost soul and the other on world history, created a tradition of open-ended experiment.”

Howard R. Lamar, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History, Yale University
Beyond the Revolution is one of the most complete, wide-ranging, readable, and insightful accounts of American intellectuals we have ever had. It deserves to be recognized as a major classic history of American intellectuals to be read by every thinking American.”

Virginia Quarterly
“An excellent summary of American thought before the Civil War. It is sure to engage readers interested not only in the history of ideas but also in the history of the early nation.”

Texas Observer
“We now have Goetzmann's life of learning distilled into what may be the capstone of his career to help us understand who we were.”

About the Author

William H. Goetzmann is Jack S. Blanton, Sr. Professor in History and American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He taught American Intellectual History for fifty years at Yale and the University of Texas. His Explorations and Empire won both the Pulitzer Prize and Francis Parkman Award. He lives in Austin, Texas.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465004954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465004959
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,130,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on March 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this brilliant study the great minds of the American 19th century are finally brought to light in a readable text that places them in the context of America. This book traces the story of America's thinkers in the post-reovlutionary era and the world they struggled with. Of particular importance were individual rights, slavery, the raod to disunion, the uniqueness of America, the American West, the Republic as ideal, women and rights for slaves, utopia, religion's role in the New World and Empire.

This beautifully written book weaves together the personalities and thoughts of the period with the fabric of history, from the Jeffersonian times to the era of Jackson, the rise of Capitalism and the Civil War. Beggining with Paine and, as the title suggests, ending with Pragmatism, this is more than a history of thought, it is also a history of America and the dreams of its people. This book shows how European influence on American thought and the roots of some of the ideas of the thinkers and shows how they imagined a New World, a New history in America that would be uniquely American.

A wonderful history and exploration of an important theme,

Seth J. Frantzman
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Format: Hardcover
Beyond the Revolution: A History of American Thought from Paine to Pragmatism
Beyond the Revolution is a valedictory from an emeritus professor who taught American studies at Yale and the University of Texas for 50 years, so as one might expect the author definitely knows his subject and has lots of interesting things to say. His coverage of American intellectual history for the period of the Revolutionary War through the Civil War is alive with rich interpretation. A final chapter touches on the next decade or two, but in very much a whirlwind fashion, not in the same depth as the preceding material.

Goetzmann addresses nearly all of the big topics and major figures in American thought in this period; just when one suspects that he may have missed something or someone very important he gets to it (with a few notable exceptions). His chief theme is that the American vision was a quest for the "climatic model of world civilization," incorporating the best ideas, life styles, and spiritual values, remaining free and open to the new. He stresses cosmopolitanism and how American intellectuals drew upon European ideas and culture. The American intellectuals were unable to foster cultural cohesion, however, as ultimately demonstrated by the Civil War.

One of the strengths of this book is how it demonstrates the influence of Scottish Common Sense in America. This philosophy opposed Berkleyan idealism with mind-and-matter dualism, stressed the scientific method and empiricism, and was sympathetic to a laissez-faire political economy.
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Format: Hardcover
The author contends, rightly so, that the modern American public is generally disdainful of intellectuals, regarded as "elitists," despite the fact that the United States more so than any nation is the "product of intellectuals" - an ideological construct. It is the role of intellectuals, who by definition continually interpret reality, to incorporate new information into broad understandings and convey that to the public in a variety of ways. As per the author, intellectuals have "made attractive to our citizens whatever the world has to offer," pushing the United States to be a cosmopolitan "nation of nations." The author distinguishes between cultures and civilizations. Cultures, consisting of "languages, ideas, values, myths, and symbols," can be exclusive and tribal, while civilizations are open to absorbing and organizing new customs and ideas - clearly this is how he sees the US. By his definition, civilizations decline when learning stops, "receding into folk culture status" with new information being proscribed by "politicians, traffic directors, bureaucrats, drillmasters, and fascists

Given an introduction that emphasizes the special talents and persuasive abilities of intellectuals, what kind of book has been produced? Actually, the book tends to be a somewhat hit-and-miss recitation of the history of various people - some major, some minor, movements, trends, mindsets, etc that only occasionally demonstrates the unique persuasiveness of intellectuals. Many of the leading literary figures who figure prominently in the book were read by few and unknown to most. His ideas of the cosmopolitan nature of American society and any clash between culture and civilization receive either vague or no treatment.
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Format: Hardcover
There are books aplenty about the evolution of political thought and culture in America. This one focuses on the period from the American Revolution to the beginnings of the 20th century. Going in chronological order, each chapter focuses on the contributions from a few key individuals living concurrently. Each chapter is almost a stand-alone work, citing the big names and the big works from that era. For example, the colonial era cites Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, and explores their contribution not only to the political scene, but also shows how their lives book-ended the extremes of the American experience during that time. Both grow up poor and start with very little. Both rise to prominence, but take different paths and come to different ends. Franklin becomes the cultural idol of America, our first Renaissance Man, who is successful and esteemed in the business, political, and literary worlds. Doors open to him wherever he goes, both inside and outside America. Paine, on the other hand, is poor almost his whole life, never achieves the political insider influence that Franklin does, and at the end of his life becomes an outsider within his own country due to his controversial writings on topics such as religion. All of this, both the personal and public lives, are explored in this book. The author does a good job showing how the personal experiences of these influential individuals helped to shape their beliefs, turning them away from opposing views. Going forward, the book explores the major literary periods of American history, such as transcendentalism, naturalism, romanticism, and realism. Overall, a good primer on American thought. The part I like most about this book was its extensive citations of not only famous, but also many of the lesser known literary and artistic works.
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