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American Character
Cover of American Character
American Character
A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good
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The struggle between individual rights and the good of the community has been the basis of nearly every major disagreement in our history, from the debates at the Constitutional Convention to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, and the Tea Party. In American Character, Colin Woodard traces these key strands in American politics through the four centuries of the nation's existence, and how different regions of the country have successfully or disastrously accommodated them. Woodard argues that maintaining a liberal democracy requires finding a balance between protecting individual liberty and nurturing a free society. Going to either libertarian or collectivist extremes results in tyranny. But where does the "sweet spot" lie in the United States, a federation of disparate regional cultures that have always strongly disagreed on these issues? Woodard leads readers on a riveting and revealing journey through four centuries of struggle, experimentation, successes and failures to provide an answer.
The struggle between individual rights and the good of the community has been the basis of nearly every major disagreement in our history, from the debates at the Constitutional Convention to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, and the Tea Party. In American Character, Colin Woodard traces these key strands in American politics through the four centuries of the nation's existence, and how different regions of the country have successfully or disastrously accommodated them. Woodard argues that maintaining a liberal democracy requires finding a balance between protecting individual liberty and nurturing a free society. Going to either libertarian or collectivist extremes results in tyranny. But where does the "sweet spot" lie in the United States, a federation of disparate regional cultures that have always strongly disagreed on these issues? Woodard leads readers on a riveting and revealing journey through four centuries of struggle, experimentation, successes and failures to provide an answer.
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About the Author-
  • Jonathan Yen was inspired by the Golden Age of Radio, and while the gold was gone by the time he got there, he's carried that inspiration through to commercial work, voice acting, and stage productions. From vintage Howard Fast science fiction to naturalist Paul Rosolie's true adventures in the Amazon, Jonathan loves to tell a good story.
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  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Jonathan Yen's deep, friendly voice makes this discussion of our nation's values both accessible and lively. One of the main fault lines that runs through American life is the one that separates individualism from the notion of the common good. Woodard's audiobook explores this separation from the dawn of the United States in 1776 through the present day, focusing on how we've alternated between eras when the individual was king, such as the mid-eighteenth century, to eras when social change required that the American community be viewed as more important. Yen varies his tone, creates characters, and reads at an energetic pace that keeps the book moving. He also pauses to let us process the information and seems to be enjoying narrating the book for listeners. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 11, 2016
    Journalist Woodard starts more strongly than he finishes in this engaging study of the history of the waxing and waning of American political philosophies. He opens with a trenchant review of how the Pilgrims "have been made pawns in a rhetorical struggle between champions of individualism and those of the common good," a clash he persuasively deems "elemental to the American experience." Linking this volume with his earlier book American Nations, Woodard expands on that volume's division of the country into 11 rival regional cultures (e.g. Yankeedom, Deep South, the Far West, the Left Coast), by analyzing shifts in views of the role of government, starting with England's American colonies in 1607, and continuing to the present. He makes no secret of his own political biases (accusing George W. Bush of presiding over "the most craven diversion of public resources to the rich and powerful in the nation's history"), which could limit his audience. But the book's larger failing is in its prescription for progress, a "political movement championing the fairness doctrine," which as described here seems indistinguishable from traditional moderate liberalism.

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American Character
American Character
A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good
Colin Woodard
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