In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

140 Shorter Book Reviews William Graebner. The Engineering of Consent: Democracy and Authon┬Ěty in Twentieth-Century America. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.xi + 262 pp. In recent years historians have become increasingly aware of the need to explore a central, but relatively neglected, aspect of American life: the sources and nature of authority. With this book, William Graebner joins the ranks of those such as John Diggins and Thomas Haskell who have done much to advance our knowledge in this area. His thesis is readily stated: the late nineteenth-century witnessed the marked erosion of traditional forms of authority in America; in their place there arose a "new structure," "democratic in form," "operating on groups rather than individuals and functioning through participatory ... relationships." This he describes as "democratic social engineering" (3), in which an illusion of participation was used to create authority. Foremen's clubs, high school councils, Golden Age clubs, discussion groups--the manifestations of this new technique for generating consent were innumerable, but all drew upon the works of philosophers, educators and social workers such as John Dewey, William H. Kilpatrick, George Albert Coe and Mary Parker Follett. During the 1930s and 1940s these theories were elaborated: a particularly significant figure was Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose views on child-rearing expressed the same desire to create a noncoercive "democratic" form of authority. A particular impetus for Spock and others was the fear of fascist authoritarianism, coupled with a perception that to resist it, democracy needed a system of authority as capable as its rival of creating social cohesion and commitment. "Always, however," Graebner points out, "those who offered such freedom expected to achieve through it a heightened obedience to constituted authority. The illusion of independence and the fact of participation in a group decision-making process would encourage commitment to goals that were, in fact, arrived at outside the group process" (139). While important and useful, this book is hardly flawless. It is more a collection of essays than a comprehensive account, and the author too frequently drops into the use of the first person in addressing the reader. Moreover, it is weak in its treatment of the post-World War II era; Gracbner argues, singling out counter-cultural, New Left and academic attacks on authority as evidence, that the years 1917-1945were the "golden age" of the technique and that the later period, particularly after 1960, was one of "declension." In fact, the kind of social engineering he describes has, if Shorter Book Reviews 141 anything, become more pervasive, and while the Left may have challenged it in some contexts, in others, it has been willingto employ similar techniques. In fairness, Graebner notes in his Introduction the "essential unity" of the period from the late nineteenth century to the present (5). However, this serves to highlight, rather than solve, the problems with his treatment of the later period. While uneven and incomplete in its treatment, the book is a highly suggestive and very useful discussion of a topic which must be of concern to all who seek to understand the United States in the twentieth century. Keith Cassidy Department of History University of Guelph Thomas R. Trautmann. Lewis Henry .Morganand the Invention of Kinship. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.xv + 290 pp. Illus. Morgan (1818-1881) is justly celebrated for three major works. Cultivating native informants for his study of the Iroquois Confederacy, he helped to confirm the place of fieldwork, if not of prolonged direct observation, in American social science; later he would add the systematic use of printed schedules. With Ancient Society, still so much and so oddly honoured in the Soviet Union, he seemed to have permanently nailed the idea of social or cultural evolution to the cross of controversy. The work under review is. focussed on a true invention. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity in the Human Family appeared in 1871, and under the handy label of "kinship" the subject has preoccupied generations of spe.cialists ever since. Trautmann reminds us at the outset that Morgan brought kinship into existence. Before him there were kinsmen enough, but ways of reckoning them were the object of no scientific curiosity. Morgan's...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 140-141
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.