By Richard J. Ellis
This paintings demanding situations the thesis first formulated by way of de Tocqueville and later systematically constructed through Louis Hartz, that American political tradition is characterised by means of a consensus on liberal capitalist values. Ranging over 300 years of background and drawing upon the seminal paintings anthropologist Mary Douglas, Richard Ellis demonstrates that American heritage is better understood as a competition among 5 rival political cultures: egalitarian neighborhood, aggressive individualism, hierarchical collectivism, atomized fatalism, and self sufficient hermitude.
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Godly materialism" may be an internalized tension, but it may also be a conflict between the godly and the materialistic. Paradox may be evidence not of a single national character but of rival cultural systems. It poses the puzzle but does not explain or resolve it. How then is one to resolve the paradox of crusading capitalists? Huntington, for instance, identifies the Puritan Revolution as "the original source... What stops such traditions from being dislodged or pried loose from the collective memory?
Only if one recognizes that group and grid, integration and regulation, are distinct social dimensions can one begin to make sense of these apparently paradoxical movements that envision an egalitarian community that is neither individualistic nor hierarchical. That the communitarian vision of Puritanism, classical republicanism, abolitionism, and progressivism recurs in many of the social movements of our day tells us that this way of life is not a vestige of the past. Rather it represents a basic choice that all humans, whatever their level of technological advancement, face in organizing their social life.
165 Placing ideas in a social context invites us to probe the process by which ideas are continually negotiated and renegotiated by real human beings. " "Where a man is expected to build his own career by transacting with all and sundry as widely as possible,... The central organizational dilemma for people who wish to live a collective life without hierarchical authority is how to keep the group together in the absence of coercive sanctions. Puritanism thus becomes an instance of a more general phenomenon rather than the explanation itself.
American Political Cultures by Richard J. Ellis