By Casey Nelson Blake
The "Young American" critics—Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, and Lewis Mumford—are renowned as critical figures within the Greenwich Village "Little Renaissance" of the 1910s and within the postwar debates approximately American tradition and politics. In loved group, Casey Blake considers those intellectuals as a coherant crew and assesses the relationship among thier cultural criticisms and their makes an attempt to forge a communitarian substitute to liberal and socialist poitics.Blake attracts on biography to stress the intersection of questions of self, tradition, and society of their demands a tradition of "personality" and "self-fulfillment." not like the tendency of past analyses to split those critics' cultural and autobiographical writings from their politics, Blake argues that their cultural feedback grew out of a thorough imaginative and prescient of self-realization via participation in a democratic tradition and polity. He additionally examines the younger American writers' interpretations of such turn-of-the-century radicals as William Morris, Henry George, John Dewey, and Patrick Geddes and indicates that this adversary culture nonetheless deals vital insights into modern matters in American politics and culture.Beloved group reestablishes the democratic content material of the younger american citizens' perfect of "personality" and argues opposed to viewing a monolithic healing tradition because the sole successor to a Victorian "culture of character." The politics of selfhood that used to be so severe to the younger americans' undertaking has remained a contested terrain through the 20th century.
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Additional resources for Beloved Community: The Cultural Criticism of Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, and Lewis Mumford
But it was obvious to Van Wyck that his family was "poor, more or less," in prosperous Plainfield and that his mother was capable only of keeping up the appearance of a genteel life-style that her finances could never support. 11 In Brooks's mind, his father's business failure and his impotence within the family revealed the threat posed by commerce to the certainties of middle-class culture. " "Business," he wrote, "is the one profession which is wholly sordid," since the businessman does not "give his own personal service to some higher cause" but instead pursues wealth for its own sake.
The Young Americans' reflections on their own moral and spiritual predicament in a corporate society prompted their explorations of the conflicts at work in their country and their culture. But in their best work they did not subordinate cultural and political issues to personal concerns. Instead, they insisted that the search for self-fulfillment was a search for communities that engaged the self in the language and civic association of a democratic culture. " 1 Instead of the conventional view of the Young Americans as cultural nationalists, I give special attention to their radical critique of the industrial division of labor and its cultural consequences.
This romantic indictment of capitalist modernity was invaluable as a source of cultural criticism, but it proved altogether unhelpful as a guide to a politics of democratic renewal and cultural revitalization. Too often, calls for a holistic understanding of culture gave way to demands that prophets of transcendental "wholeness" take the leading role in social and political change. Too often, the recognition that political issues had cultural and psychological manifestations issued in programs that substituted artistic leadership and spiritualistic therapies for a sustained project of civic reconstruction.