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

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Product Details


$86.50 • £69.95 • €78.00

ISBN 9780674008830

Publication Date: 10/01/2002


672 pages

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

1 halftone

Belknap Press


What a wonder then is James Block’s book, a daring master narrative and bracing theoretical exercise of the first order. It promises and delivers nothing less than a fundamental recasting of ‘the American path to a modern self and society.’—Robert Westbrook, The Christian Century

A Nation of Agents is a work of extravagant erudition and originality. James E. Block has read voraciously in the sources, seen things that few have seen before, and put them together as none have done before. He sets forth a new view of American culture, threading his thesis through three centuries of American thought and the preceding century of English thinking besides.—Michael Zuckerman, Journal of American History

James Block’s big, ambitious A Nation of Agents leaves no doubt about its aspirations in the contest to solve the Gordian knot of the relationship between the one and the many in American social thought… The subtlety and acuity with which Block develops these themes through scores of thinkers and over 500 pages can scarcely be exaggerated. A Nation of Agents is a genuinely prodigious work of scholarship.—Daniel T. Rodgers, Modern Intellectual History

This is an original and exciting work of scholarship, in which the idea of agency takes on the characteristics of a deep cultural imperative in American life. Block’s agency thesis is at once a genealogy of modern American identity and a theoretical exploration of the horizon within which American political and moral self-reflection is conducted.—Eldon J. Eisenach, University of Tulsa

The most remarkable aspect of this book is the author’s ability to weave a single thread—the thread of ‘agency’—through four centuries of Anglo-American intellectual history. Block’s great achievement is to propound a new ‘common theme’ to American history. A Nation of Agents is a beacon for scholars seeking a usable past. If ever intellectual history is to regain its prominence in the field of American history it will require works like this.—Harry S. Stout, Yale University

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