The History of an American Idea
New York University Press 2015
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Big IdeasNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network May 19, 2017 Lillian Calles Barger
Ralph Young is a professor of history at Temple University. His book Dissent: The History of an American Idea (New York University Press, 2015) provides a fast-paced four hundred years people’s history of dissenters in America and the role they played from early New England settlements to Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. From Shay’s rebellion in the late eighteenth century to contemporary gay rights and anti-globalist movements, dissenters built their politic on the nations founding as a project of dissent. As a group, they were committed to actualizing the lofty ideals embedded in the founding documents by extending equality and freedom to women, slaves, Indians, workers and other excluded groups. In times of crisis, dissenters called the nation back to its promise even as conservative forces resisted change. Some dissenters, celebrated as heroes, called the nation to its highest ideals; others remain lost to history or vilified. American history seen from the vantage point of those who stood against the status quo illuminates the important role dissent has played in the nation’s political and social development. Young offers an abundance of examples of how political, religious, economic and social protest shape the nation and possibilities of further change.
Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is tentatively entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.