Freedom, Eric Foner writes, is "the oldest of clichés and the most modern of aspirations." But what does it mean to be free? For the people of the United States, the concept of "freedom"--and its counterpart, "liberty"--have had widely differing meanings over the centuries. The Story of American Freedom, therefore, "is not a mythic saga with a predetermined beginning and conclusion, but an open-ended history of accomplishment and failure, a record of a people forever contending about the crucial ideas of their political culture."
Foner begins with the colonial era, when the Puritans believed that liberty was rooted in voluntary submission to God and civil authorities, and consisted only in the right to do good. John Locke, too, would argue that liberty did not consist of the lack of restraint, but of "a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power." Foner reveals the ideological conflicts that lay at the heart of the American Revolution and the Civil War, the shifts in thought about what freedom is and to whom it should apply. Adeptly charting the major trends of 20th-century American politics--including the invocation of freedom as a call to arms in both world wars--Foner concludes by contrasting the two prevalent movements of the 1990s: the liberal articulation of freedom, grounded in Johnson's Great Society and the rhetoric of the New Left, as the provision of civil rights and economic opportunity for all citizens, and the conservative vision, perhaps most fully realized during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, of a free-market economy and decentralized political power. The Story of American Freedom is a sweeping synthesis, delivered in clearheaded language that makes the ongoing nature of the American dream accessible to all readers. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Distinguished Columbia historian Foner frames American history as a continuing fight for freedom.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
As Americans we have a tendancy to think of this country as the birthplace of freedom and enlightenment, that is just came to us naturally from the very beginning. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2003 by Reviewer X
The idea of freedom in American history seems to have gone through a series of cycles and metamorphic changes to suit a variety of social, political, and economic changes. Read morePublished on March 16 2000 by Joe Brown
This is a bore to read, unless you're really, really into the stuff. His analysis is good, and well-organized, but he could use a more objective tone rather than analyze... Read morePublished on Nov. 22 1999
It is often remarked that America is not a class society--because we don't, as a nation, speak in the language of class. Read morePublished on Oct. 1 1999
I first became acquainted with Eric Foner through his masterful "Reconstruction," a book of history that illuminated modern problems and prospects through a detailed look... Read morePublished on June 15 1999
As a teacher of U.S history, I admire the insight and depth Foner takes in analyzing the evolving concept of freedom. Read morePublished on May 1 1999 by firstname.lastname@example.org