The Dream of a Democratic Culture: Mortimer J. Adler and the Great Books Idea by T. LacyThe Dream of a Democratic Culture: Mortimer J. Adler and the Great Books Idea by T. Lacy

The Dream of a Democratic Culture: Mortimer J. Adler and the Great Books Idea

byT. Lacy

Hardcover | November 26, 2013

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From the middle of the twentieth century to today, the Great Books idea has been perennially contested in successive iterations of the 'culture wars.' Whether embraced as the distillation of the best of Western culture or dismissed as hegemonic, elitist, and outdated, it has encapsulated the contradictions of intellectual life and civic culture in the era of American dominance. Drawing on previously unexamined sources, this book casts the Great Books idea in a new light, arguing that its proponents aimed to support an intellectually robust, consensus-oriented democratic culture. Moving from the concept's origins in nineteenth-century cultural, industrial, and educational initiatives, author Tim Lacy highlights the life and career of Mortimer J. Adler, who moved the idea out of the academy and worked to weave it into social and cultural fabric of the United States. With attention to the frequently changing fortunes of the project and its own inherent virtues and vices, The Dream of a Democratic Culture conclusively shows that neither liberals nor conservatives can claim ownership of the Great Books idea, whose significance has always depended upon usage, selection criteria, and context.

Tim Lacy has a PhD in American History from Loyola University Chicago, USA, where he is currently employed. He has taught history at Monmouth College, USA, and several Chicago-area colleges and universities.
Title:The Dream of a Democratic Culture: Mortimer J. Adler and the Great Books IdeaFormat:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 8.5 × 5.51 × 0 inPublished:November 26, 2013Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan USLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230337465

ISBN - 13:9780230337466

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Table of Contents

1. The Great Books Movement, 1920-1948
2. Building Britannica's Great Books of the Western World, 1943-1952
3. Making 'Seventy-Four Corpses…Pay Off': The Context and Commerce of the Great Books, 1952-1968
4. 'Mixing Vice and Virtue': Adler, Britannica's Cottage Industry, and Mid-century Anxiety
5. The Common Sense of Great Books Liberalism, 1965-1970
6. Diminished Dreams: Great Books in an Age of Crisis, Fracture, and Transition, 1968-1977
7. 'The Poobah of Popularizers': Paideia, Pluralism, and the Culture Wars, 1978-1988
8. 'The Most Rancorous Cultural War': Bloom, Adler, Stanford, and Britannica, 1988-2001

Editorial Reviews

'This portrait of Mortimer Adler and his movement is distinguished by its fairness, insight, and awareness of the context of modern American culture. It is a heroic story of egalitarian education - complete with heroic flaws and a tragic ending.' - Jonathan Rose, author of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes'What is a 'Great Book,' and why should you read one? Tim Lacy has produced our first truly historical account of the Great Books movement and of Mortimer Adler, its brilliant and flawed proponent and icon. Along the way, he also sheds new light on the 'Culture Wars' that have flared across American education since the 1960s. No matter how you answer Lacy's question about Great Books, his own superb book will provide an indispensable guide to their history, politics, and meaning.' - Jonathan Zimmerman, Professor of Education and History, New York University, USA, and author of Whose America?: Culture Wars in the Public Schools'Since the culture wars of the '80s, Mortimer Adler and the Great Books idea have been associated with a conservative or traditionalist view of the academic humanities. In this provocative book, Tim Lacy shows how ill-informed this view is by reconstructing the bracingly progressive and democratic vision behind Adler's work.' - Gerald Graff, Author of Clueless in Academe'By taking such a careful and judicious look at the Great Books idea and its critics, Tim Lacy relates an important chapter in the history of debates and ideas about the relation of liberal education to democratic citizenship culminating in the 1990s 'culture wars.' He brings clarity to the often gnarled nexus of strivings for excellence and rigor, on the one hand, and accessibility and equality, on the other. These impulses, assumed perennially to be mutually exclusive, have led to what is so far intractable paradox at the heart of the American experience. One implication of Lacy's interesting story is that, to be meaningful and conducive to democratic culture, any notion of an intellectual tradition must be open-ended and subject to question and criticism based on criteria of taste, standards, and that often disregarded and elusive yet essential element: quality.' - Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Professor of History, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, USA