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The Age of Strict Construction

a history of the growth of federal power, 1789-1861

Peter Zavodnyik

The Age of Strict Construction explores the growth of the federal government's power and influence between 1789 and 1861, and the varying reactions of Americans to that growth.

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The Age of the Democratic Revolution

A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800

R. R. Palmer

For the Western world, the period from 1760 to 1800 was the great revolutionary era in which the outlines of the modern democratic state came into being. Here for the first time in one volume is R. R. Palmer’s magisterial account of this incendiary age. Palmer argues that the American, French, and Polish revolutions—and the movements for political change in Britain, Ireland, Holland, and elsewhere—were manifestations of similar political ideas, needs, and conflicts. Palmer traces the clash between an older form of society, marked by legalized social rank and hereditary or self-perpetuating elites, and a new form of society that placed a greater value on social mobility and legal equality.

Featuring a new foreword by David Armitage, this Princeton Classics edition of The Age of the Democratic Revolution introduces a new generation of readers to this enduring work of political history.

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Ambition in America

Political Power and the Collapse of Citizenship

Jeffrey A. Becker

Most Americans admire the determination and drive of artists, athletes, and CEOs, but they seem to despise similar ambition in their elected officials. The structure of political representation and the separation of powers detailed in the United States Constitution were intended to restrain self-interested ambition. Because not all citizens have a desire to rule, republican democracies must choose leaders from pools of ambitious candidates while trying to prevent those same people from exploiting public power to dominate the less ambitious.

Ambition in America: Political Power and the Collapse of Citizenship is an engaging examination of this rarely studied yet significant phenomenon. Author Jeffrey A. Becker explores how American political institutions have sought to guide, inspire, and constrain citizens' ambitions to power. Detailing the Puritans' government by "moral community," the Founders' attempts to curtail ambition, the influence of Jacksonian populism, and twentieth-century party politics, Becker presents an unfolding drama that culminates in a spirited discussion of the deficiencies in the current political system.This groundbreaking work reassesses the value and role of ambition in politics in order to identify the beliefs and practices that threaten self-government, as well as those that can strengthen democratic politics.

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Ambivalent Miracles

Evangelicals and the Politics of Racial Healing

Nancy D. Wadsworth

Over the past three decades, American evangelical Christians have undergone unexpected, progressive shifts in the area of race relations, culminating in a national movement that advocates racial integration and equality in evangelical communities. The movement, which seeks to build cross-racial relationships among evangelicals, has meant challenging well-established paradigms of church growth that built many megachurch empires. While evangelical racial change (ERC) efforts have never been easy and their reception has been mixed, they have produced meaningful transformation in religious communities. Although the movement as a whole encompasses a broad range of political views, many participants are interested in addressing race-related political issues that impact their members, such as immigration, law enforcement, and public education policy.

Ambivalent Miracles traces the rise and ongoing evolution of evangelical racial change efforts within the historical, political, and cultural contexts that have shaped them. Nancy D. Wadsworth argues that the stunning breakthroughs this movement has achieved, its curious political ambivalence, and its internal tensions are products of a complex cultural politics constructed at the intersection of U.S. racial and religious history and the meaning-making practices of conservative evangelicalism. Employing methods from the emerging field of political ethnography, Wadsworth draws from a decade’s worth of interviews and participant observation in ERC settings, textual analysis, and survey research, as well as a three-year case study, to provide the first exhaustive treatment of ERC efforts in political science.

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America and the Political Philosophy of Common Sense

Scott Philip Segrest

From Aristotle to Thomas Jefferson, seminal thinkers have declared “common sense” essential for moral discernment and civilized living. Yet the story of commonsense philosophy is not well known today.
 
            In America and the Political Philosophy of Common Sense, Scott Segrest traces the history and explores the personal and social meaning of common sense as understood especially in American thought and as reflected specifically in the writings of three paradigmatic thinkers: John Witherspoon, James McCosh, and William James. The first two represent Scottish Common Sense and the third, Pragmatism, the schools that together dominated American higher thought for nearly two centuries.
 
Educated Americans of the founding period warmly received Scottish Common Sense, Segrest writes, because it reflected so well what they already thought, and he uncovers the basic elements of American common sense in examining the thought of Witherspoon, who introduced that philosophy to them. With McCosh, he shows the furthest development and limits of the philosophy, and with it of American common sense in its Scottish realist phase. With James, he shows other dimensions of common sense that Americans had long embraced but that had never been examined philosophically.
 
            Clearly, Segrest’s work is much more than an intellectual history. It is a study of the American mind and of common sense itself—its essential character and its human significance, both moral and political. It was common sense, he affirms, that underlay the Declaration of Independence and the founders’ ideas of right and obligation that are still with us today. Segrest suggests that understanding this foundation and James’s refreshing of it could be the key to maintaining America’s vital moral core against a growing alienation from common sense across the Western world.
 
Stressing the urgency of understanding and preserving common sense, Segrest’s work sheds new light on an undervalued aspect of American thought and experience, helping us to perceive the ramifications of commonsense philosophy for dignified living.

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America in Italy

The United States in the Political Thought and Imagination of the Risorgimento, 1763–1865

Axel Körner

America in Italy examines the influence of the American political experience on the imagination of Italian political thinkers between the late eighteenth century and the unification of Italy in the 1860s. Axel Körner shows how Italian political thought was shaped by debates about the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution, but he focuses on the important distinction that while European interest in developments across the Atlantic was keen, this attention was not blind admiration. Rather, America became a sounding board for the critical assessment of societal changes at home.

Many Italians did not think the United States had lessons to teach them and often concluded that life across the Atlantic was not just different but in many respects also objectionable. In America, utopia and dystopia seemed to live side by side, and Italian references to the United States were frequently in support of progressive or reactionary causes. Political thinkers including Cesare Balbo, Carlo Cattaneo, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Antonio Rosmini used the United States to shed light on the course of their nation's political resurgence. Concepts from Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Vico served to evaluate what Italians discovered about America. Ideas about American "domestic manners" were reflected and conveyed through works of ballet, literature, opera, and satire.

Transcending boundaries between intellectual and cultural history, America in Italy is the first book-length examination of the influence of America's political formation on modern Italian political thought.

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America's Mission

The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy

Tony Smith

America's Mission argues that the global strength and prestige of democracy today are due in large part to America's impact on international affairs. Tony Smith documents the extraordinary history of how American foreign policy has been used to try to promote democracy worldwide, an effort that enjoyed its greatest triumphs in the occupations of Japan and Germany but suffered huge setbacks in Latin America, Vietnam, and elsewhere. With new chapters and a new introduction and epilogue, this expanded edition also traces U.S. attempts to spread democracy more recently, under presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and assesses America's role in the Arab Spring.

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America's Second Crusade

William Henry Chamberlin

In this work William Henry Chamberlin offers his perspective as a seasoned journalist on the United States’ involvement in World War II. Written only five years after the unconditional surrenders of Germany and Japan, the book is a window into its time. William Henry Chamberlin (1897–1969) was an American journalist best known for his writings on the Cold War, Communism, and U.S. foreign policy.

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America'S Shadow

An Anatomy of Empire

William V. Spanos

A study of imperialism that stretches from ancient Rome to the post–Cold War world, this provocative work boldly revises our assumptions about the genealogy of the West. Rather than locating its source in classical Greece, William V. Spanos argues, we should look to ancient Rome, which first articulated the ideas that would become fundamental to the West’s imperial project. These founding ideas, he claims, have informed the American national identity and its foreign policy from its origins.

The Vietnam War is at the center of this book. In the contradiction between the “free world” logic used to justify U.S. intervention in Vietnam and the genocidal practices used to realize that logic, Spanos finds the culmination of an imperialistic discourse reaching back to the colonizing rationale of the Roman Empire. Spanos identifies the language of expansion in the “white” metaphors used in Western philosophical discourse since the colonization of Greek thought by the Romans. He shows how these metaphors, and their use in metaphysical discourse, have long been complicit in the violence of imperialism.

Unique in the context of postcolonial studies, this book emphasizes what is largely overlooked by commentators on imperialism: its metaphysical source. By interpreting U.S. conduct in the Vietnam War as the fulfillment of the logic springing from ancient Rome, America’s Shadow calls on us to confront our past, our “truths,” and the imperialistic violence latent in our inherited frame of reference. It urges us to discover the positive critical and political possibilities that lie in an examination of the contradictions that haunt the language of Western thought.

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American Burke

The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the late 20th century’s leading public intellectuals, defied easy categorizations throughout his extraordinary life. In this perceptive and carefully argued study, Greg Weiner argues persuasively that Moynihan was an “uncommon liberal”  who embodied liberal and conservative strains and believed in an activist government even as he remained skeptical about government’s capacity to produce change. This fine intellectual biography highlights Moynihan’s extraordinary honesty and range of interests and will remind readers how public life has been diminished since his passing.

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