What is it about?
John J. Sbrega Abstract This study provides a new conceptualization about American culture and the role of intellectuals in the late nineteenth century. The premise is that social values influence social behavior. An understanding of the American culture leads to insights about the mainsprings of contemporary foreign policy. This study focuses on three key components: Social Darwinism, Pragmatism, and the industrialization of the American Dream. The contribution here is that individual intellectuals interpreted these same three components in conflicting ways; furthermore, some even advocated different positions of the same rationale depending on the domestic or foreign context. They often relied on the same rationale for contradictory ends.
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Why is it important?
This article is a speculative essay that centers on American culture during a critically important time for the United States: the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. My intent is to call attention to how three key cultural components helped to shape public policies. Intellectuals played a pivotal role in attempting to explain the importance of Social Darwinism, Pragmatism, and the American Dream in the formulation of public policies. Ironically, intellectuals on all sides of these debates invoked one or more of the same three forces. The significance of the article lies, in part, by demonstrating not only the challenges inherent in the formulation of any public policy but also the inner turmoil and contradictions within the intellectual class.
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This page is a summary of: An Intellectual Dilemma and Tragedy: Social Darwinism, Pragmatism, and the Industrialization of the American Dream During the Latter Half of the Nineteenth Century, The Journal of American Culture, June 2021, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/jacc.13273.
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