The American Family: From Obligation To Freedom

Paperback | October 15, 2011

byDavid Peterson del Mar

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This book traces the movement from mutualism to individualism in the context of American family life. Throughout American history, families survived or even flourished during colonization, the Revolution, slavery, the industrial revolution, immigration, and economic upheaval because reliance on others was patently necessary. But in the past century, unprecedented prosperity both freed Americans from mutual dependence and created a culture devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and individual fulfilment. This shift from obligation to freedom has turned the maintenance of durable, rewarding families into a countercultural act, one that requires a conscious decision to qualify the American commitment to freedom.

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This book traces the movement from mutualism to individualism in the context of American family life. Throughout American history, families survived or even flourished during colonization, the Revolution, slavery, the industrial revolution, immigration, and economic upheaval because reliance on others was patently necessary. But in the...

David Peterson del Mar is an assistant professor at Portland State University and an adjunct assistant professor at Oregon State University. His previous books include What Trouble I Have Seen: A History of Violence against Wives (1996) and Beaten Down: A History of Interpersonal Violence in the West (2001).

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 9.34 × 6.04 × 0.47 inPublished:October 15, 2011Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230337457

ISBN - 13:9780230337459

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Table of Contents

Societies of Obligation * The Search for Order in North America  * Revolution and Continuity * Containing the Bourgeois Family * Necessity and Tradition * The First Modern Family * The Family in Crisis and After * Freedom’s Florescence * Countercultures

Editorial Reviews

"The American Family: From Obligation to Freedom tackles the challenging project of addressing change and continuity among diverse families over four centuries while also offering a convincing interpretive argument. The book is both timely and well-written and reflects the author's wide reading in the history, sociology, and anthropology of family life. This is an impressive achievement." - Anya Jabour, professor of history, The University of Montana 'As a potential textbook for courses on the history of the American family, this book is superior to anything available. More than a textbook, it is a well-researched, tightly argued, and clearly and lively written interpretative history.' - Gary S. Cross, Distinguished Professor of Modern History, Penn State University 'An ambitious and sweeping interpretation of family history across continents and centuries. Del Mar poses a simple question in the introduction: what is the relationship between the concepts of freedom and obligation. He finds in the answer the transformation of society in the modern era, and with it, the transformation of family life. This is an impressive and convincing book.' - Elliott Gorn, professor of History and American Studies, Brown University