Cover: A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society, from Harvard University PressCover: A Nation of Agents in HARDCOVER

A Nation of Agents

The American Path to a Modern Self and Society

Add to Cart

Product Details

HARDCOVER

$86.50 • £69.95 • €78.00

ISBN 9780674008830

Publication Date: 10/01/2002

Short

672 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 halftone

Belknap Press

World

In this sweeping reinterpretation of American political culture, James Block offers a new perspective on the formation of the modern American self and society. Block roots both self and society in the concept of agency, rather than liberty, and dispenses with the national myth of the “sacred cause of liberty”—with the Declaration of Independence as its “American scripture.” Instead, he recovers the early modern conception of agency as the true synthesis emerging from America’s Protestant and liberal cultural foundations.

Block traces agency doctrine from its pre-Commonwealth English origins through its development into the American mainstream culture on the eve of the twentieth century. The concept of agency that prevailed in the colonies simultaneously released individuals from traditional constraints to participate actively and self-reliantly in social institutions, while confining them within a new set of commitments. Individual initiative was now firmly bounded by the modern values and ends of personal Protestant religiosity and collective liberal institutional authority. As Block shows, this complex relation of self to society lies at the root of the American character.

A Nation of Agents is a new reading of what the “first new nation” did and did not achieve. It will enable us to move beyond long-standing national myths and grasp both the American achievement and its legacy for modernity.

Recent News

From Our Blog

Jacket, What Remains: Bringing America’s Missing Home from the Vietnam War, by Sarah Wagner, from Harvard University Press

Remembering Our Veterans during a Pandemic

Social distancing will make this Memorial Day quite different from what we are used to. Sarah Wagner, author of What Remains: Bringing America’s Missing Home from the Vietnam War, shows the way she’s chosen to remember and honor veterans during these challenging times. Dispatch from DC: Memorial Day weekend in the nation’s capital will be different this year. No motorcycles rumbling around the Nati

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library (loebclassics.com) extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.