The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, 2004 - History - 214 pages
7 Reviews
"The American Dream" is one of the most familiar and resonant phrases in our national lexicon, so familiar that we seldom pause to ask its origin, its history, or what it actually means. In this fascinating short history, Jim Cullen explores the meaning of the American Dream, or rather theseveral American Dreams that have both reflected and shaped American identity from the Pilgrims to the present. Cullen notes that the United States, unlike most other nations, defines itself not on the facts of blood, religion, language, geography, or shared history, but on a set of ideals expressedin the Declaration of Independence and consolidated in the Constitution. At the core of these ideals lies the ambiguous concept of the American Dream, a concept that for better and worse has proven to be amazingly elastic and durable for hundreds of years and across racial, class, and otherdemographic lines. The version of the American Dream that dominates our own time--what Cullen calls "the Dream of the Coast"--is one of personal fulfillment, of fame and fortune all the more alluring if achieved without obvious effort, which finds its most insidious expression in the culture ofHollywood. For anyone seeking to understand a shifting but central idea in American history, The American Dream is an interpretive tour de force.
  

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4
4 stars
1
3 stars
2
2 stars
0
1 star
0

Review: The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation

User Review  - Corrielle - Goodreads

I ran across a reference to this book while doing research on Death of a Salesman, and now having read the whole thing, let's just say I'm going to fundamentally alter how I teach that play to include ... Read full review

Review: The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation

User Review  - Castille - Goodreads

Not written in the most interesting manner, but it presents some great ideas. Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

A DREAM COUNTRY
3
DREAM OF THE GOOD LIFE I THE PURITAN ENTERPRISE
11
DREAM CHARTER THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
35
DREAM OF THE GOOD LIFE II UPWARD MOBILITY
59
KING OF AMERICA THE DREAM OF EQUALITY
103
DETACHED HOUSES THE DREAM OF HOME OWNERSHIP
133
DREAM OF THE GOOD LIFE III THE COAST
159
EXTENDING THE DREAM
185
NOTES ON SOURCES
191
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
201
INDEX
205
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2004)


Jim Cullen holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University and teaches at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, in New York City. He is the author of Born in the U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition and The Civil War in Popular Culture: A Reusable Past, among other books.

Bibliographic information