The Americans: The Democratic Experience [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Daniel J. Boorstin
eBook Category: Politics/Government
eBook Description: The third and final volume in Daniel Boorstin's award-winning trilogy, The Americans: The Democratic Experience wraps up his remarkable exploration of the American character. Beginning roughly from the time of the Civil War and ending with the moon landing, The Democratic Experience, like its two predecessors, spends remarkably little time with presidents, senators and famous battles. Indeed, in his account it is the leaders and their high-level dealings that are the footnotes to the experience of common people. Boorstin begins his book with an exploration of a distinctively American type, the "go-getter." The Western states, largely unexplored and unmapped, comprised a territory rich in opportunities for those willing to go find them, or, even better, to go make them. Boorstin provides fascinating looks into the formation of American society through the lens of these found and made opportunities. Oil, cattle, and gold are just a part of the story. His exploration extends across the whole web of social relations and business practices that were influenced and created by a nation's early experiences with its own vastness. We think of the typical go-getters, the prospectors and oil men striking out into the heart of the continent looking to make their fortune. But with this phenomenon comes a whole host of secondary effects that Boorstin examines in fascinating detail. For example, he points out that with a problematic lack of established knowledge of local customs and practices, businessmen seeking to establish themselves in the West had to find support and guidance. The role of intermediary, therefore, became a crucial one, giving birth to another industry, and a figure more enduring than the cowboy or the pioneer: the American lawyer. Along the way, Boorstin also tackles some more typical Western stories, discussing the cowboy, the frontiersman and the emigrant, bringing new clarity and discrimination to some old, familiar myths. He also looks into the growth of individual states, such as Nevada, the opportunities created through gambling and, oddly enough, divorce, and the rise of organized crime. As he did most interestingly in his other works, Boorstin describes the American experience, and the formation of the American character through the technology and the systems that spring up to meet certain needs and that become closely woven into the fabric of American life. The department store, mail order shopping, the sewing machine, IQ tests, and life insurance all arise as a result of needs to some degree peculiar to the American experience and go on to inform the way Americans think about abstractions like intelligence, poverty, income, consumption and class. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Americans: The Democratic Experience is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand present-day American culture.
eBook Publisher: RosettaBooks
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2002
This eBook is part of the following series:
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The Go Getters
Most of the time we were solitary adventures in a great land as fresh and new as a spring morning, and we were free and full of the zest of darers.
-- CHARLES GOODNIGHT
Money-getters are the benefactors of our race.
-- P.T. BARNUM
To live outside the law you must be honest.
-- BOB DYLAN
THE YEARS AFTER the Civil War when the continent was only partly explored were the halcyon days of the Go-Getters. They went in search of what others had never imagined was there to get. The Go-Getters made something out of nothing, they brought meat out of the desert, found oil in the rocks, and brought light to millions. They discovered new resources, and where there seemed none to be discovered, they invented new ways of profiting from others who were trying to invent and to discover. Lawyers, who in the Old World had been the staid props of tradition, became a Go-Getting profession, profiting from the hopes of others, from the successes and frustrations of boosters and transients. Federalism itself became a profitable commodity, making business for lawyers and hotelkeepers and bartenders, and building improbable new cities. The moralism of Americans, even their high-minded desire to prohibit vice, itself became a resource, created new enterprises, accumulating fortunes for those who satisfied illicit wants. All over the continent -- on the desert, under the soil, in the rocks, in the hearts of cities -- appeared surprising new opportunities.
"Gold from the Grass Roots Up"
AMERICANS WOULD BECOME the world's great meat eaters. In the Old World, beef was the diet of lords and men of wealth. For others it was a holiday prize. But American millions would eat like lords -- because of the efforts of American Go-Getters in the half-charted West.
The Western combination of desert, inedible forage, and unmarketable wild animals offered a puzzling, enticing opportunity to men in search of new wealth. It was seized by Western cattlemen and cowboys. Their great opportunity was to use apparently useless land that belonged to nobody. "There's gold from the grass roots down," declared California Joe, a guide in the gold-rich Dakotas in the 1870's, "but there's more gold from the grass roots up." Westerners took some time to discover that gold. But once they discovered it, a rush for the new gold was on. That rush would transform much of the West, would shape the American diet, and created some of the most distinctive American institutions and folk heroes -- including the cowboy.
Copyright © 1973 by Daniel Boorstin