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“A New Kind of Revolution”, Carl N

A New Kind of Revolution Introduction America was the first successful colonial ..

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A new kind of revolution degler thesis

The best way to address this question is through the lens of two noted historians: Gordon Wood and Carl Degler. The following was excerpted from "Was the American Revolution a Conservative Movement?" by Gordon Wood and Carl Degler in , Larry Madaras and James M SoRelle (eds.), 1995.

Sunrise at Philadelphia + a New Kind of Revolution "A New Kind of Revolution" Carl N

As an example, one of the basic fault lines in the AmericanRevolution example divided those who wanted only independence fromEngland from those who wished to seize the opportunity to work moreextensive changes in the structure of American society. Was theAmerican Revolution merely a colonial rebellion or was it a true socialrevolution? The answer is, of course, both.Any future interpretation of the nature of the American Revolution mustbegin by making clear the internal divisions among the revolutionaries,and ways in which the evolving factions and coalitions shaped thedirection of change. (This same debate has occupied historians of theRevolution since at least the time of J. Franklin Jameson's The American Revolution Considered as a Social Movement and Carl Becker's The History of Political Parties in the Province of New York.)

Degler, "A New Kind of Revolution ..

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This is a useful definition, but it leads to problems. How many contemporary historians actually argue for this kind of American exceptionalism? Some social scientists-notably Daniel Bell and Seymour Martin Lipset-proclaim themselves exceptionalists. Yet it is difficult these days to find any historian who will do the same. American historians typically invoke "exceptionalism" when they want to attack, not defend, the idea of the nation's uniqueness. To borrow a title from Sean Wilentz, we stand "Against Exceptionalism." The idea that the United States is significantly different from, let alone superior to, other nations is something we would rather leave out back on the cold war scrap heap. Any historian caught near that pile of outmoded notions has to be ready with a disclaimer or an apology. In his presidential address to the American Historical Association in 1986, Carl Degler renounced "the specter of American exceptionalism" in order to propose comparative studies that would isolate the particular character of American life. "The purpose, I emphasize, is not to praise us," he reassured his audience, "but to understand who we are." Dorothy Ross, having documented the tenacious hold exceptionalist ideology had on the pioneering American social scientists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was in a worse fix. Caught with the goods, she had to "plead guilty to a species of American exceptionalism." But she made "clear . . .lest there be any room for doubt, that my examination of the ideology of American exceptionalism is a critique of this idea of American uniqueness, not an endorsement. . . [M]y intention in singling out this ideology for historical critique is to render it less effective in the future."3

A second form of transnational history, only glimpsed in Tyrrell's article, is far more revolutionary. "European expansionism," he writes, "has gradually created a global economy and is today in the process of creating a global society as well."25 Here is a summons for historians to produce not just an improved version of an old, national story but a new narrative altogether. The focus shifts from how international factors shape nations to how nations and other forces will create the "global society." This is an especially challenging task because it demands some confidence about the direction of humankind. Will we in fact create a "global society"? How do we define it? Presumably, it will be shaped by economic and media networks, by nation-states and natural resources. But will it be character- ized by a common culture, a common sense of identity and purpose? Far more than the history of "international connections," the story of "global society"

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Carl Degler says (Out of Our Past): "No new social class came to power through the ..

One recent example is Gordon S. Wood's observation in "Rhetoric and Reality in the American Revolution," that "Something profoundly unsettling was going on in (their) society."In going back to the half century before the Revolution, however,Berthoff and Murrin suggest that "[i]n certain ways economic growth andgreater social maturity were making the New World resemble the Old moreclosely." In such a society "becoming both more like and more unlikethat of Europe, more and more unsettled, more complex and lesshomogeneous, a revolutionary war—even one conducted for the mostnarrowly political ends—could hardly fail to stimulate certain kinds ofchange and inhibit others."

David Jacobson, The English Libertarian Heritage, Introduction; Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic; Carl Degler, Out of Our Past: The Forces that Shaped Modern America; Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America.

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