There are more “Americans” today than ever before. By this I don’t mean sheer numbers. Numerically, we are 312 million people, so in size we have certainly grown. What I mean is culturally. A greater portion of our population in the 21st century is culturally American than at the time of the revolution.
This seems like a radical idea, doesn’t it? But that’s the thesis of Claude Fischer’s Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character, the scholarly tome that’s the basis of our consideration this week on ourValues.org. In short, Fischer concludes: “Centuries of material and social expansion enabled more people to become more characteristically ‘American,’ meaning—among other things—insistently independent but still sociable, striving, and sentimental.”
Certainly there have been ups and downs and periods of reversal. The spread of what it means to be American has been uneven. But taking a long view, the mass of historical evidence shows a clear trend. Over time, “more wealth, more things, more information, more power, more acquaintances, and so many more choices” have let more people join the circle of what it means to be American.
Today, we are bigger, more religiously diverse, and more ethnically complex than ever before.
Could it also be that this vast and diverse nation is also more American than ever? This week, we’ll take a close look at Fischer’s evidence.
Today, what do you think of his main conclusion?
Are we more American than ever before?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.