The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation

Paperback | May 30, 2005

byJim Cullen

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"The American Dream" is one of the most familiar and resonant phrases in our national lexicon, so familiar that we seldom pause to ask its origin, its history, or what it actually means. In this fascinating short history, Jim Cullen explores the meaning of the American Dream, or rather theseveral American Dreams that have both reflected and shaped American identity from the Pilgrims to the present. Cullen notes that the United States, unlike most other nations, defines itself not on the facts of blood, religion, language, geography, or shared history, but on a set of ideals expressedin the Declaration of Independence and consolidated in the Constitution. At the core of these ideals lies the ambiguous concept of the American Dream, a concept that for better and worse has proven to be amazingly elastic and durable for hundreds of years and across racial, class, and otherdemographic lines. The version of the American Dream that dominates our own time--what Cullen calls "the Dream of the Coast"--is one of personal fulfillment, of fame and fortune all the more alluring if achieved without obvious effort, which finds its most insidious expression in the culture ofHollywood. For anyone seeking to understand a shifting but central idea in American history, The American Dream is an interpretive tour de force.

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"The American Dream" is one of the most familiar and resonant phrases in our national lexicon, so familiar that we seldom pause to ask its origin, its history, or what it actually means. In this fascinating short history, Jim Cullen explores the meaning of the American Dream, or rather theseveral American Dreams that have both reflecte...

Jim Cullen holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University and teaches at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, in New York City. He is the author of Born in the U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition and The Civil War in Popular Culture: A Reusable Past, among other books.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 5.31 × 7.91 × 0.59 inPublished:May 30, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195173252

ISBN - 13:9780195173253

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"Jim Cullen's The American Dream is a tour de force through the whole of American history, from the Puritans to home ownership and California. Cullen daringly takes the notion of the American Dream as a touchstone for a huge swathe of American cultural history, and tracks its complexities,its shifts and conflicts--and unities. Gracefully written, elegantly unified, respectful toward disparate ideas, never indulgent of scholastic gobbledygook, the book has all the strength of its simplifications. A marvelous achievement." --Todd Gitlin, Columbia University