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Free Time

The Forgotten American Dream

Benjamin Hunnicutt

Publication Year: 2013

Has the "American Dream" become an unrealistic utopian fantasy, or have we simply forgotten what we are working for? In his topical book, Free Time, Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt examines the way that progress, once defined as more of the good things in life as well as more free time to enjoy them, has come to be understood only as economic growth and more work, forevermore.

Hunnicutt provides an incisive intellectual, cultural, and political history of the original "American Dream" from the colonial days to the present. Taking his cue from Walt Whitman's "higher progress," he follows the traces of that dream, cataloging the myriad voices that prepared for and lived in an opening "realm of freedom."

Free Time reminds Americans of the forgotten, best part of the "American Dream"-that more and more of our lives might be lived freely, with an enriching family life, with more time to enjoy nature, friendship, and the adventures of the mind and of the spirit.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. iii-iv


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p. v-v

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pp. vii-xi

For nearly thirty-six years I have been struggling to solve what I am convinced is one of the great mysteries of our time. Like all good stories, this one can be sketched out quickly and simply. Beginning in the early nineteenth century and continuing for over a hundred years, working hours ...

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Introduction: Higher Progress—the Forgotten American Dream

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pp. 1-12

At one time economic progress and technological advances were understood to have a definite goal: abundance. After adequate economic progress was made so that everyone was able to afford the necessities of life, a condition Monsignor John Ryan (the “Right Reverend New Dealer”)1 described as a ...

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1. The Kingdom of God in America: Progress as the Advance of Freedom

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pp. 13-25

J.G.A. Pocock emphasized that personal independence, selfless duty to the state, and military valor were the primary virtues of pre-Revolutionary America’s “Country Ideology”—an ideology that, “belonging to a tradition of classical republicanism and civic humanism” and “looking unmistakably back to ...

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2. Labor and the Ten-Hour System

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pp. 26-47

America’s educated elite initiated and led the antebellum period’s reform causes: temperance, peace, women’s rights, prison reform, and the abolition of capital punishment and slavery. Shorter working hours was the exception. While receiving vital support from people such as William ...

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3. Walt Whitman: Higher Progress at Mid-century

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pp. 48-69

In 1855 in his first preface to Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman’s democratic vision was clear, bold, and optimistic, not yet clouded by events and democracy’s rude growths. But after the Civil War and with the publication of Democratic Vistas, he had become painfully aware of freedom’s failures: rampant hypocrisy ...

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4. The Eight-Hour Day: Labor from the Civil War to the 1920s

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pp. 70-94

Continuing to be inspired by their vision of “the reduction of human labor to its lowest terms,” American workingmen and workingwomen renewed their efforts to win the eight-hour day after the Civil War, making significant advances.1 As Karl Marx famously observed, “The first fruit of the Civil War was the ...

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5. Infrastructures of Freedom

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pp. 95-108

More than thirty years after its publication, Daniel Rodgers’s book The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850–1920 remains one of the best accounts of work attitudes in the United States. He, and James Gilbert in Work without Salvation, described a crisis that occurred during the last ...

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6. Labor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Dream

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pp. 109-121

Up until the beginning of World War II, organized labor and America’s workingmen and workingwomen struggled to reduce their working hours. Even after the war and through the 1960s, labor pressed for the reform, continuing to fuel widespread expectations that an age of leisure would soon ...

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7. Challenges to Full-Time, Full Employment

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pp. 122-147

Criticism of Roosevelt’s new vision of Full-Time, Full Employment was widespread during the Depression and began again after the war. Examples abound. Two of the best are Frank Lloyd Wright’s and Robert Hutchins’s. After the Great Depression, Frank Lloyd Wright reiterated ...

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8. Labor Turns from Shorter Hours to Full-Time, Full Employment

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pp. 148-165

After World War II, labor renewed the call for shorter hours. Using familiar arguments, some of which were over a hundred years old, laborites called for reducing weekly work hours to below forty to combat unemployment, create jobs, promote health and safety, and stimulate economic demand to make ...

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9. Higher Progress Fades, Holdouts Persist

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pp. 166-182

While increasingly rare, representations of Higher Progress could still be found in the United States after the 1970s. Rank-and-file union workers in locations such as Battle Creek, Michigan, and Akron, Ohio, through the 1980s and into the 1990s held on to the vision. However, after voting twice to reinstate ...

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10. The Eclipse of Higher Progress and the Emergence of Overwork

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pp. 183-190

One of the primary purposes of this book has been to support the hypothesis that the loss of the original American dream is one of the main reasons that interest in shorter hours ended and that working hours began to increase over the last thirty years. However, as working hours grew in the absence ...


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pp. 191-226


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pp. 227-237

E-ISBN-13: 9781439907160
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439907153

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2013