Catalogue


Poor Richard's principle : recovering the American dream through the moral dimension of work, business, and money /
Robert Wuthnow.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1996.
description
xii, 429 p. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0691028923 (cl : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1996.
isbn
0691028923 (cl : alk. paper)
catalogue key
673902
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [377]-426) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1997-03-01:
Wuthnow writes as a public intellectual and moralist, striving to contribute to a national conversation about the enduring place of religion and morality in shaping the quest for economic well-being and the pursuit of the American Dream. Drawing on a recent "Economic Values Survey" and 200 interviews conducted in metropolitan areas, the discussion proceeds through the voices of respondents who speak of the erosion of moral frameworks to define work, consumerism, and the balance between career and family life. Americans today express malaise at the "golden handcuffs" of their economic obligations, the ritualized avoidance of speaking about money matters, the obsessive nature of consumer rituals, and the perceived trade-off between materialism and family values. Wuthnow provides important discussions of Protestant vocational asceticism and Pietist expressive moralism that once provided the cultural guideposts for making a life, like that of Benjamin Franklin, who balanced economic success with a commitment to self-cultivation and public service. Poor Richard's principles may still hold currency for contemporary Americans who seek a revitalized American Dream and moral discourse to guide them on life's way. All levels. J. H. Rubin Saint Joseph College
Appeared in Library Journal on 1996-11-01:
According to Wuthnow (American religion, Princeton Univ.), "the American dream is in serious danger, not because of economic conditions, but because its moral underpinnings have been forgotten." From this premise, Wuthnow uses the results of 2000 surveys to determine what is going on in society today. He thoroughly traces the concepts of work and morality through the years up to the present, looking at who works, policies governing work, and the effects of political economists and economics. Today there is pressure at the workplace because working hard yields the material gains that in turn become the focus, rather than family, community, or religion. Some people are beginning to rethink the American dream in an effort to bring back those older values, and Wuthnow tells us why and how this is taking place. He provides a readable, thought-provoking, and scholarly tome that will appeal to students, general readers who watch current trends in economics and labor, and specialists and scholars in the field.‘Steven J. Mayover, Free Lib. of Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1996-08-19:
Readers of this heavy tome could be forgiven for echoing H.L. Mencken's classic riposte: "Down With Uplift." Wuthnow has paraded an extensive series of case histories chronicling all the strains of our times‘family breakdown, disaffected children, financial insecurity, unhappiness in the workplace and much more. The author's credentials are impressive: director of the study of American religion at Princeton university. However, the bromides he offers to address these problems are a vague mixture of spiritualism and moral regeneration. Wuthnow has drawn heavily on the thoughts of Benjamin Franklin, including a portion of the title from his most famous work. Which is ironic for a work on morality, as Franklin was a well-known reprobate in his day. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"In this sociological tract for our times, Wuthnow reconsiders the nature and meaning of the American dream in the late twentieth century. This book goes much further than merely recounting the manifold failings of American economics and culture in the pursuit of happiness.... Wuthnow perceives a moral vacuum at the core of American society, and recommends that Americans systematically revisit the cultural imperatives of an earlier age to reinvent the paradigm of personal success in late capitalism. An important and timely work."-- The Virginia Quarterly Review
"Through dozens of citizens who talked with him, Wuthnow records the continuing stresses in modern economic life.... [The] model of an ideal life, Wuthnow maintains, evolved before the Civil War into two schools of social thought, which he calls 'ascetic' and 'expressive' moralism.... Wuthnow's impressive body of polls and interviews convinces us that both of these modern traditions remain powerful influences in American life today."-- Richard Parker, The New York Times Book Review
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist,
Kirkus Reviews, August 1996
Publishers Weekly, August 1996
Library Journal, November 1996
Choice, March 1997
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
"Contributes significantly to our understanding of the major disjunctions of contemporary social life."--Robert Jackall, Williams College
Unpaid Annotation
The American Dream is in serious danger, according to Robert Wuthnow - not because of economic conditions, but because its moral underpinnings have been forgotten. In the past this vision was not simply a formula for success, but a moral perspective that framed our thinking about work and money in terms of broader commitments to family, community, and humanitarian values. Nowadays, we are working harder than ever, and yet many of us feel that we are not realizing our higher aspirations as individuals or as a people. Here Wuthnow examines the struggles in which American families are now engaged as they try to balance work and family, confront the pressures of consumerism, and find meaning in their careers. He suggests that we can find economic instruction and inspiration in the nation's past - in such figures as Benjamin Franklin, for instance, who was at once the prudent Poor Richard, the engaged public person, and the enthusiastic lover of life.
Main Description
The American Dream is in serious danger, according to Robert Wuthnow--not because of economic conditions, but because its moral underpinnings have been forgotten. In the past this vision was not simply a formula for success, but a moral perspective that framed our thinking about work and money in terms of broader commitments to family, community, and humanitarian values. Nowadays, we are working harder than ever, and yet many of us feel that we are not realizing our higher aspirations as individuals or as a people. Here Wuthnow examines the struggles in which American families are now engaged as they try to balance work and family, confront the pressures of consumerism, and find meaning in their careers. He suggests that we can find economic instruction and inspiration in the nation's past--in such figures as Benjamin Franklin, for instance, who was at once the prudent Poor Richard, the engaged public person, and the enthusiastic lover of life. Drawing on first-hand accounts from scores of people in all walks of life and from a national survey, the book shows that work and money cannot be understood in terms of economic theories alone, but are inevitably rooted in our concepts of ourselves and in the symbolic rituals and taboos of everyday life. By examining these implicit cultural understandings of work and money, the book provides a foundation for bringing moral reasoning more fully to bear on economic decisions. It re-examines the moral arguments that were prominent earlier in our history, shows how these arguments were set aside with the development of economistic thinking, and suggests their continuing relevance in the lives of people who have effectively resisted the pressures of greater financial commitments. Demonstrating that most Americans do bring values implicitly to bear on their economic decisions, the book shows how some people are learning to do this more effectively and, in the process, gain greater control over their work and finances. At a time when policymakers are raising questions about the very survival of the American dream, Poor Richard's Principle offers an analysis of how moral restraint can once again play a more prominent role in guiding our thinking.
Back Cover Copy
"Contributes significantly to our understanding of the major disjunctions of contemporary social life."-- Robert Jackall, Williams College
Main Description
The American Dream is in serious danger, according to Robert Wuthnow--not because of economic conditions, but because its moral underpinnings have been forgotten. In the past this vision was not simply a formula for success, but a moral perspective that framed our thinking about work and money in terms of broader commitments to family, community, and humanitarian values. Nowadays, we are working harder than ever, and yet many of us feel that we are not realizing our higher aspirations as individuals or as a people. Here Wuthnow examines the struggles in which American families are now engaged as they try to balance work and family, confront the pressures of consumerism, and find meaning in their careers. He suggests that we can find economic instruction and inspiration in the nation's past--in such figures as Benjamin Franklin, for instance, who was at once the prudent Poor Richard, the engaged public person, and the enthusiastic lover of life. Drawing on first-hand accounts from scores of people in all walks of life and from a national survey, the book shows that work and money cannot be understood in terms of economic theories alone, but are inevitably rooted in our concepts of ourselves and in the symbolic rituals and taboos of everyday life. By examining these implicit cultural understandings of work and money, the book provides a foundation for bringing moral reasoning more fully to bear on economic decisions. It re-examines the moral arguments that were prominent earlier in our history, shows how these arguments were set aside with the development of economistic thinking, and suggests their continuing relevance in the lives of people who have effectively resisted the pressures of greater financial commitments. Demonstrating that most Americans do bring values implicitly to bear on their economic decisions, the book shows how some people are learning to do this more effectively and, in the process, gain greater control over their work and finances. At a time when policymakers are raising questions about the very survival of the American dream,Poor Richard's Principleoffers an analysis of how moral restraint can once again play a more prominent role in guiding our thinking.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Poor Richard's Principlep. 2
Introduction The Question of Moral Restraintp. 3
The Unrealized American Dreamp. 15
Having It All-and Wanting More: the Social Symptoms of Cultural Distressp. 17
Making Choices: from Short-Term Adjustments to Principled Livesp. 37
Moral Tradition: the Lost Ambivalence in American Culturep. 59
The Cultural Construction of Material Lifep. 83
Shifting Perspectives: the Decoupling of Work and Moneyp. 85
Accounts: the Changing Meanings of White-Collar Workp. 105
(not) Talking About Money: the Social Sources and Personal Consequences of Subjectivizationp. 138
Getting and Spending: the Maintenance and Violation of Symbolic Boundariesp. 169
The Working Class: Changing Conditions and Converging Perspectivesp. 206
The Precarious Sources of Human Valuesp. 239
Family Life: the New Challenges of Balancing Multiple Commitmentsp. 241
Rediscovering Community: the Cultural Potential of Caring Behavior and Voluntary Servicep. 265
The Quest for Spirituality: Ambiguous Voices from America's Religious Communitiesp. 292
The Languages of Moral Discoursep. 329
Materialism and Moral Restraint: the Role of Ascetic and Expressive Valuesp. 331
The Possibilities of Moral Discourse: Limitations, Pathologies, and Challengesp. 357
Methodologyp. 375
Notesp. 377
Indexp. 427
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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