Michael Kazin says America is an optimistic nationHistorians in the News
It probably means, Michael Kazin says, that Americans are behaving like they always do. A repeated theme in American history, says Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University, "is Americans believing the country is in decline and then finding ways to rebound from both the fear of decline and the problems that gave rise to that fear."
There is reason for optimism, says Kazin, who specializes in populist movements and is the editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History.
For one thing, populist movements similar to, for example, Tea Parties, have reared up repeatedly in American history to rail against social inequities and faltering financial systems. But rather than heralding the end of the republic, he says, they "often spur politicians to make changes that in the end make the country stronger."
Americans apparently understand this: Of the 86 percent in the survey who thought the government was broken, 81 percent say that it could be fixed.
"Most Americans are still optimistic about the future of the country," Kazin says, "and even of politics."
Kazin's most recent book is "A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan." He is also co-editor of Dissent magazine.
He talked to CNN.com last week (the interview has been edited for length)....
CNN: You have said that the United States is doing rather well, and that what is in decline is a myth that America will always be richer, freer, and superior to other nations. So the country is not in decline?
Kazin: I think we are in trouble, but that's not the same as saying we're in decline. We have an economic crisis, unsolved problems, our political situation is deadlocked, many Americans are unhappy with the government.
But we've been there before. In the 1930's there was such a period: the Great Depression. And what came afterward was victory in World War II and then the greatest sustained economic boom in American history.
One of the continuing themes in American history is Americans believing the country is in decline and then finding ways to rebound from both the fear of decline and the problems that gave rise to that fear. I see no reason to believe that won't happen again....
comments powered by Disqus
- Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation among documents sold for $6.2m in New York
- Family shines light on American POW killed by Hiroshima blast
- In Hiroshima 71 years after first atomic strike, Obama calls for end of nuclear weapons
- Artist Corrects Inaccuracies At The George W. Bush Library With Augmented Reality
- “Unprecedented” discovery of mysterious structures created by Neanderthals
- History Relevance Campaign meets at the Smithsonian
- Bernard Lewis Turns 100
- David Lowenthal, author of "The Past Is a Foreign Country,” says it’s folly to scratch the names of slaveholders off buildings
- Jean Edward Smith, biographer of FDR and Ike, has a new biography coming out … of George W. Bush
- Flora Fraser, biographer of George and Martha Washington, wins $50,000 George Washington Prize