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124 Shorter Book Reviews have counselled against a large share of postbellum investment, thus generating a very different history from the one that occurred. Indeed, there seems an interesting implicit sharing between the political extremes here as elsewhere; Hilton's cautious approach to new investment has affinities with the mind-set of academic socialists, who see central direction of investment as avoiding the duplication, irrationality and waste resulting from decentralized decision-making and capital supply. Perhaps we can detect here the makings of a new, "green" capitalism more appropriate for the coming century of limits. On the other hand, the cost-benefit analysis which became so central in academic economicsafter 1945may have had an impact on businessitself, discrediting"animalspirits"in favour of the cautious, shortterm , financially-oriented mentality of business leaders in the 1980s. Still, even if that suggestion resonates, it does not detract from Hilton's remarkable achievement as a philosophic historian of technology and businessjudgment. Fred Matthews Department of History York University Michael Lienesch. New Order of the Ages: Time, the Constitution, and the Making of Modern American Political Thought. Princeton: Princeton UniversityPress, 1988. x + 235 pp. New Orderof theAges is an ambitious attempt to capture the meanings that the American Revolutionarygeneration attached to their political experience. Invoking the "republican" interpretation of American political beliefs associated with the work of Bernard Bailyn, J.G.A. Pocock and Gordon Wood (to name only its most widely-cited proponents) and the "liberal" interpretation associated with Joyce Appleby, John P. Diggins and Louis Hartz, not to mention the millenarian tradition as examined primarily by Sacvan Bercovitch and a less well-established interest in the Americans' conceptions of "time" (which might better be described as their changing sense of their relationship to history), it seeks to describe the country's emergence during the 1780sand l790sinto political modernity. Lienesch employs a close reading of primary sources to develop his argument, but he relies upon documents in which a knowledgeable reader would expect to find expressions of the ideas he adduces to make his case. Shorter Book Reviews 125 Far from pressing (say) the question of the ways in which secular figures may have subscribed to millennial beliefs, he makes large use of religious figures to argue that religious concepts influenced American political thought. Were he to suggest no more than that religious spokesmen spoke like religious practitioners, his analysis might be persuasive, but it would of course not mean much. His practice, instead, is to take their statements as evidence of the intellectual orientation of the generation as a whole. His problem runs deeper than this tendency to make use of its most accessible parts to represent an unexamined whole. Most of the writers he quotes were engaged in some form of polemical address, seeking to encourage particular social or political behaviors by invoking cliches they thought likely to move their hearers or readers. Only occasionally paying attention to the context in which they wrote or the purposes they apparently sought to further, and taking only bits and pieces of what they said to exemplify their positions on a continuum between, for example, "republicanism" and "liberalism," he substitutes the "ideas" so expressed for the thinking they probably engaged in during the course of uttering what they did. Both tendencies are strikingly evident in his treatment of deliberations on the federal Constitution. Although he makes some effort to defme the perspectives delegates brought to the Philadelphia Convention, he places much greater reliance on what partisans for and against the completed document said during the struggle over ratification, when they were more likely to utter formulaic statements than to articulate their deepest concerns. More generally, he makes the history of the times a competition between disembodied ideas rather than a competition between men who began by employing their minds to deal with a complex experience. I think this result is inherent in the approach he chose to use. Illuminating as it can sometimes be, the effort to interpret historic phenomena in terms of interpretive paradigms developed by modern scholars often defeats the attempt to understand past events because it substitutes-not simply introduces--questions historic figures did not ask, for questions they sought to address...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 124-125
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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