This America : the case for the nation

by Jill Lepore

Hardcover, 2019




New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, [2019]


"From the best-selling author of These Truths, a work that examines the dilemma of nationalism and the erosion of liberalism in the twenty-first century. At a time of much despair over the future of liberal democracy, Harvard historian Jill Lepore makes a stirring case for the nation in This America. Since the end of the Cold War, Lepore writes, American historians have largely retreated from the idea of 'the nation,' in part because postmodernism has corroded faith in grand narratives, and in part because the rise of political nationalism has rendered it suspect and unpalatable. Bucking this trend, however, Lepore argues forcefully that the nation demands scrutiny. Without an honest reckoning with America's collective past, we will be at the mercy of unscrupulous demagogues who spin their own version of the national story for their own purposes. 'When serious historians abandon the study of the nation,' Lepore tellingly writes, 'nationalism doesn't die. Instead, it eats liberalism.' A trenchant work of political philosophy as well as a reclamation of America's national history, This America asks us to look our nation's sovereign past square in the eye to reveal not only a history of contradictions, but a path of promise for the future"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member neurodrew
I read this entirely while traveling to Las Vegas for the AAN Fall Conference, now, as of this entry, recall little of it, and plan to read it again.
January 3, 2020
Nations, the author argues, are not usually comprised of people related by origin or ethnicity, but a common geography, and knitted together by a shared and usually invented history. The British do not recall they were once Saxons, Anglos, Celts and Scots, they have created a common history. The United States became a state first, and only gradually invented a history. July 4th parades and celebrations were deliberately invented in the first years of the 19th century, by the Federalists who were selling their countryman on the constitution. The US constitution was originally a "roof without walls", a universal document that made special provisions to keep the slave states in the union. It was not until Reconstruction that the 14th and 15th amendments established the principles of equality. In the 1880's, the first immigration restrictions, initially against Chinese were put into place. It was interesting to note that immigration reform was part of Johnson's Great Society program, but that reform eliminated a special category for Mexican immigration, effectively reducing the number of Mexicans allowed into the US.
The final chapter, of course, is much against Trump and his supporters, and also chides historians for no longer writing a story of the nation, since they have thought that liberalism had won and destroyed nationalism during the global nineties.
I agree with her stance for universal rights and equality under law.
… (more)
LibraryThing member JosephKing6602
A short book....but a difficult book that approaches American History in a fairly abstract way. It's a timely topic; and the book helped me understand the concept of 'nationalism' in the context of today's ultra-divisive political environment.
LibraryThing member gbelik
A short, thoughtful book, making the case that accurate history makes for admirable nationalism.



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