You believed that leisure was good. Who was responsible for this revolution in everyday American life? Scholars have attributed it to the vast natural resources of the North American land mass; the lack of trade barriers among the states; the building of mass, integrated industries such as railroads, steel, oil, wheat, lumber, and meat; the early development of the modern corporation in the United States; technological advances in production such as rubber vulcanization, the sewing machine, refrigeration, the Bessemer and open-hearth steel processes, the assembly line, and electric light and power; as well as the assistance of the federal government to economic development in the form of protective incorporation laws, land grants, the authorization of stocks and the backing of bonds, protective tariffs to shield American companies from foreign competition, and armed intervention against labor strikes.
And yet not a single consumer good would have been produced if people did not want them or did not allow themselves to seek them. Without desire there would have been no demand. Without demand there would have been no production. What was necessary for the consumer revolution to take place was a radical change in the way Americans thought about desire, pleasure, leisure, and spending. The standard story is that advertisers created desires and invented false needs in the minds of consumers.
Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Bentley, the first manufacturers of pottery and among the first capitalists to seek broader markets for consumer products, acknowledged to each other that they could not allow their own tastes to determine what they produced. When Wedgwood found that a particular vase which he thought unattractive was widely popular, he did not hesitate to mass produce it. To guide their production, Wedgwood and Bentley spent as much time as possible in their London shop, observing what customers purchased and asking them their opinions.
By the end of the eighteenth century, this strategy made Wedgwood the best-selling pottery line on both sides of the Atlantic. The company would not launch a product that had not gone through rigorous vetting with consumers. Paul T. Cherington, research director of the J. By the end of the nineteenth century, every major business that catered to consumers was conducting market research surveys to find out what they wanted, then producing it as soon as they could.
Ordinary Americans with new, extraordinary desires were voting with their feet and their hard-earned money every day, electing new lives for themselves and a new way of life for everyone. Anyone who believes that advertisers control consumers need only be told a few names: Tucker, Henry J. These were among many automobiles that were marketed strenuously by their manufacturers but quickly discontinued due to weak sales. Moreover, of the 30, new products introduced in grocery stores after , more than 80 percent were pulled from the shelves by In the s, consumers rejected even more products.
Of the 84, grocery store products introduced after , fully 86 percent did not survive to And ask any Hollywood executive how easy it is to please the customer. There have been thousands of big-budget, highly advertised films that lost millions for studios. Indeed, it has been estimated that at least 80 percent of Hollywood productions have lost money, while many have lost fortunes.
No less an authority than Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Film Manufacturing Company, spoke to the inability of Hollywood to control its audience. They found their patrons were more willing to pay money to see an off-color than a decent one. Several historians have shown that the early motion picture industry was driven largely by female consumption. Working-class women flocked to amusement parks as well and helped make them the living symbols of the end of the Victorian age.
Not my great-greats. I know I've read this description of the Irish in a wide variety of books, and again, I'm very curious as to the why of this. I certainly never felt that my grandparents were filthy, disgusting people. But then again, they'd "assimilated"… Why do we have to feel so bloody insecure that we have to oppress others?
Can you believe that people of the time thought the Irish, the Jews, and then the Italians were niggers? Because… shhh …they liked to dance! They liked music. They liked having a good time. Just like them darkies! If that what makes you of the negroid race, I'm volunteering. Yeah, race. Scientists of the times "proved" that the Irish, the Jews, and the Italians were of different races from Nordic races. When the Irish, Jews, and then the Italians immigrated to America, they saw nothing "wrong" with mixing it up with African Americans.
They lived with them, married them, had affairs, danced, and had fun. Martin Luther King was one of the African Americans who wanted to help his fellow man mainstream as well. All this is the equivalent of having to knuckle under to a bunch of bully boys. When you think about it, every generation has its new omigod fashion, dance, music that the older generation claims will destroy civilization as they know it.
And that new generation cycles on to become the older generation shocked by what their younger generation brings forth. Parents were shocked by the waltz, the lindy, the jitterbug, tap dancing, the twist… It was dresses that came above the ankle, to the knee then above it!!
A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell – review
Zoot suits! Blue jeans! Today's hilarious habit of wearing your pants so they hang halfway off your butt, exposing your boxers. Duck tails, bobs, long hair on men, heck, I'm sure someone was shocked at buzz cuts. Wow, just…wow…! And it includes, lol, the Jews' and Italians' valiant efforts to keep us wet during Prohibition! Seems the Jews were pretty athletic as well back in the day…until they were forced into assimilation. Robinson, Kirk Douglas, and so many more. I have to wonder if Americans saw these incoming Europeans as "disgusting" and "indolent" because they weren't as committed to that Puritan work ethic.
If it was because they took the time to have some fun. This prejudice was disgusting, and it makes me wonder how we're still doing it today. What I did love was the joy that people experienced when they "rebelled" and mixed it up — blacks, whites, Chinese, men, women, miners, Mexicans, Indians together! The shock!! Some interesting sections on fashion, makeup, and hairstyles are scattered throughout.
A look at the Ku Klux Klan and Russell notes that the KKK didn't only go after African Americans, they also went after "vile places of amusement", partially to protect their white women. At one point, Russell notes how the Italians took a long time before they identified themselves as Americans, but in truth, we still identify ourselves by our ancestral origins. If I'm overseas, I'll say I'm American. And it must be due…gasp…to not limiting immigration enough to keep out the "wrong" element. One point that Russell raises continually is the very different culture of African Americans, and I'm hoping some African Americans will weigh in on this.
Russell's statements do seem borne out by what I've read in the news, and it makes sense if what he stated about slavery was true. It does seem as if African Americans were rejecting the white man's work ethic and cultural expectations, which only makes sense if you are offered citizenship in name only. All of this is a result of that Puritan work ethic of our Founding Fathers.
Yes, the same ones who also went out and had fun in their own lives, but didn't want it for anyone else. They thought that if workers had extra time at the end of the day, they'd be rested and want to sit through lectures on improvements, morality, etc. Even Margaret Sanger and those who promoted birth control were actually interested in eugenics and controlling the population. The section on freedom for slaves after the Civil War is interesting.
There's a different perspective on how slaves were treated and what they thought about it as well as the why of Russell's statements. I suspect it might have been less cruel to be a slave than a white child growing up with parents who believed in "spare the rod, spoil the child". At least slaves had value…jesus.
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I have to wonder how much of my interpretation of it is based on novels and white historians rewriting history. I can see Russell's point, and he does have a slew of facts and a few interviews that seem to support his conclusions. I'd want to read a lot more primary sources before I can buy it all. The problem with slavery was that slaves were too free…" Russell also looks at Reconstruction after the Civil War, and if his earlier statements are correct, then it puts a different light on Republican efforts.
It also seems shameful. Play by our rules, however stupid, or you're out. I dunno.
Table of Contents
I'd want to see more primary sources on this as well. The democracy the Founding Fathers wanted was denial of desire, to feel shame for wanting, to instead desire restraint and more work. They actually liked the boycott of British goods as it would teach Americans to deny themselves luxuries!
Hmmm, wonder if Jefferson would have denied himself his books…or Sally? They tried to tax pleasure — and it gives new meaning to the Whiskey Rebellion! Russell notes that historians [and contemporary pundits] see consumerism as bad.
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That spending money on anything not essential to sustaining life is "bad", that it distracts from finding joy in working. I'm wondering who decides what the minimum amount is and if everyone is expected to adhere to this minimum. The governor? The billionaire? The business owner? This desire to enforce a work ethic also explains why only landowners could vote! No manufacturers, bankers, merchants, or consumers need apply. Yeah, you won't be able to believe it, but it does make sense if you buy into this. Of course, when you see how many wealthy men believe that consumerism is bad, ya gotta wonder why they manufacture anything.
Although Carnegie did think the rich should be heavily taxed so the state would have a nice chunk of change to help people. Then again, Max Weber believes they wanted their wealth so they'd have more power to control people. That's a concept I'd believe.
Then there's his comment about psychologists saying "that sexuality informs all of our social activities and that people are obsessed with sex [NO?!! If sex is so awful, why do we keep seeking it out? There are reasons today why there are restrictions on various vices such as drinking. For one, back then, nobody had to drive home drunk and alcohol was healthier to drink than water. I've always loved this. Well, I am a woman. When you consider that any woman before this revolution was essentially considered a whore or "asking for it" if she wore makeup, was alone in public, attempted to be independent and more.
In truth, real prostitutes had it pretty good, before the Revolution and in the Old West. Before laws were enacted against it, prostitutes in a bordello had free health care, food, nice clothing, a warm place to live, free birth control, safety, and legal assistance. None of this was a guarantee for "good" women.
Ya gotta read what happened in Denver when the council decided to shame its prostitutes, lol. Russell's comments on the Social Purity movement of the s will make you shake your head in disgust. All it did was lead to women being turned out onto the streets and being subjected to pimps. Without health insurance. It's not for nothing that prostitution and brewing alcohol are considered some of the oldest professions. Hmmm, the reason for Coney Island's continued success back then… Before America became independent, sex was freewheeling and women could work at anything; there were no laws about marriage or divorce; prostitution was not the horror we all think it was remember who writes the histories!
What Russell emphasizes is that these "rebels" who enjoyed life, who danced, listened or created music, drank, gambled, had sex are why we and the Soviet bloc have the liberty we have today. In many respects, I agree with him. The entertainment we enjoy today — movies, dancing, music, Las Vegas etc.
The truth behind "Dixie" and the Selwyn Theater. And it explains why the whitey ain't got no rhythm, lol. There's Edison and his Trust versus the nickelodeons along with what led to the Hays Code.
Interesting insights into the movies produced during World War II as well as why San Francisco became a mecca for gays! Oh, oh, and the start of growing marijuana! I love it! An Italian opera house went bankrupt while an Ethiopian opera flourished, 'cause one was fun and the other wasn't. I'll let you decide which one. Tons and tons and tons of facts in here, but Russell writes it well. He does have a tendency to run on and repeat himself and yet he is trying to make a point. I'd like to see this book used as part of a history class in high school.
And incorporate a lot of his facts into history classes. His book explains a lot about a number of legislative acts passed by the government. History should be balanced, honest, true, and not only the "victor's" idea of true. It makes me sad to think how much richer America would have been if the control freaks had simply left people alone. It all comes down to embracing pleasure, being free with one's body, and that work is simply a means to fun. Or we could go back to the Puritan work ethic and give up our novels, movies, music, and Xboxes.
Nahhh… The Cover and Title The cover is a close-up of an American flag with "naughty" symbols replacing some of the stars. A skull for the poison symbol, a guitar, high heels oh, no! I do like the title overlaid on the two white stripes of the flag. Feb 17, Lynne rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , gay-lesbian , political. An amazing book that -- even if you hate history -- will make you enjoy it. In fact, if this was the kind of history we were taught in school, we might have actually fought for places in the class. Warning though: having read this book, you'll never again see the "founding fathers", the first Americans, prostitutes before the s, pirates, slaves, working people and unions, people of irish-ancestry, people of african-ancestry, people of italian-ancestry, jewish people, organized crime, Frankli An amazing book that -- even if you hate history -- will make you enjoy it.
Warning though: having read this book, you'll never again see the "founding fathers", the first Americans, prostitutes before the s, pirates, slaves, working people and unions, people of irish-ancestry, people of african-ancestry, people of italian-ancestry, jewish people, organized crime, Franklin Roosevelt, world war 2, rock and roll, the black civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay liberation movement, rednecks, or hippies the same ever again.
I read huge sections of this book to my wife -- which I never do, as we never have the same tastes in books -- and she was just as fascinated as I was. Great book. Jun 19, Michael Malice rated it it was amazing. Could not recommend this any higher. Dec 28, Lori rated it really liked it Shelves: history. Thaddeus Russell upholds the gifts of the slackers, carousers, 'deviants' and other residents of society's underbelly in this rollicking tour of American History that is unlike anything most of us experienced in our formal schooling on the subject.
This is a book I would like to put into the hands of certain people who constantly bemoan the downfall of contemporary civilization and pine for the 'good old days'. I am an avid reader of the news I frequent our Thaddeus Russell upholds the gifts of the slackers, carousers, 'deviants' and other residents of society's underbelly in this rollicking tour of American History that is unlike anything most of us experienced in our formal schooling on the subject. I frequent our library's web site where I can access every edition of the major Cleveland paper going back to the s.
So, it is not exactly news to me that 'there is nothing new under the sun'. And I never believed that 'immorality' was invented in the 20th century. The old papers are rife with stories of knock down drunkards, murder, rape, incest and all matter of crime, petty or otherwise. The average person lived in conditions that we would consider appalling The death rolls are filled with people in their 20s and 30s succumbing to drink and disease. I do not envy the 19th century citizen his or her experience. So I was not exactly unprepared for many of the revelations within A Renegade History.
Still, I learned quite a few interesting things. Some of the more fascinating tidbits include: off the charts illegitimacy in Colonial America; the connections between organized crime and gay culture; the somewhat 'carefree' lives of slaves; and the fact that Bing Crosby was Protestant. That last one blew what is left of my mind these days. This book can be a bit of an unsettling read. It is uncomfortable for me to think of slavery in terms of anything but a heinous institution that reduced people to chattel. Although the author certainly does not condone slavery in any sense, he does point out some elements that made me squirm.
Most surprising to me were the oral histories performed in the s with former slaves. Many of these people recalled slavery days too fondly for the 21st century reader. Many claimed that life was easier on the plantation than it was for them after Reconstruction. Another section that proved fascinating to me was the chapter about the New Deal.
Russell's comparison between the architects of the New Deal with the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany during the same era was interesting. It is an uncomfortable connection for me. I am aware of the conflation of FDR to Hitler in some conservative circles.
Although I remain an admirer of FDR and underscore the point that he deviated from the path of the Hitler and Mussolini to the point of orchestrating their defeat I am more educated on the era after reading this section. Apparently, we were more reluctant to fight than is generally recognized 75 years after the fact.
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A Renegade History is definitely designed and written to raise some eyebrows and it is a bit showy in its desire to be outre. And that is what makes it so much fun to read. If only history was treated a bit more like this in school. Students would see that they are not learning dry facts and dates about people remote from them.
Instead, they would see history as a steady stream of humanity flowing through time Russell takes care not to glorify the renegades and admits, in his preface, that society would be an ugly and miserable place if left strictly in their hands. However, he also warns us against the excesses of the killjoys who have always found a way to rule us. Wouldn't we be better off, postulates, Russell, if we had a foot in both worlds? Apr 07, Joe rated it liked it. A great and engrossing book on many levels. However, I felt the chapter on slavery did not take nearly enough factors into consideration concerning the psychology of ex slaves and the conditions they endured.
I understand that the point Russell was making about how ex slaves after the war were conditioned by the government against bigamy and encouraged deeply towards the rigid moral sexual codes of the day and that they associated slavery with a freer time of sexual exploration, but I felt that A great and engrossing book on many levels.
I understand that the point Russell was making about how ex slaves after the war were conditioned by the government against bigamy and encouraged deeply towards the rigid moral sexual codes of the day and that they associated slavery with a freer time of sexual exploration, but I felt that not enough consideration was paid to the intricacies of control and the paradoxes of cruelty that so infused the US during this time period.
I realize that children around the board were punished and that black slaves were not exclusively targeted, but the idea remains hard to swallow that slaves were somehow happier during the pre Reconstruction era. I find the author's apologetic tone to be somewhat of a trap in psychological terms. The first hand accounts taken down in the 30s aside, a lot remained unsaid. The entire period was victim to what I interpret as a nation wide Stockholm Syndrome, where many slaves felt powerless and with little choice in spite of the massive social reforms happening around them.
This psychological phenomenon exists today in our world of retail wage slavery, as people have choices in technicality, but are severely limited by the factor of money to the point where very little choice is at hand. The same principle but different environment and level of intensity and control, mind you, but the psychology remains true. The more time people spend with little or no choice in how they run their lives, the more likely they are to keep to the same patterns.
Many slaves did stay on plantations after the war ended.
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But there are MANY economic and social factors at play here, and we can see this is true when you look at the pattern of migration of blacks to the west and urban north later on in the 19th century. As far as levels of happiness go, I think that the text Russell comes up with should be described as speculative and should be left at that. Regarding the nature of his writing, I do think he needed to make more of a connection between the fascinating subjects he brings up and the forces aligning against them.
I would like to have seen more of an effort to get behind the scenes, as it were, of the government after the Founding Fathers. Equally, I felt that he deliberately ignored making a distinct analysis and conclusion regarding the American workplace, and how it could be improved through comparison to previous time periods. The rest of this book is filled, however, with incredibly important accounts of left out American history.
The history of alcohol, taverns, prostitution, and various outlaw activities and how they are integrated with our culture is extremely interesting and everyone should familiarize themselves with those aspects of American history at some point. Mar 16, Carolyn rated it really liked it Shelves: history , library-books , nonfiction , political-commentary.
Very interesting and definitely politically incorrect revisions to the American history typically taught in schools. The list of renegades starts with "drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, pirates, and other heroes of the American revolution. After the civil war, the freed slaves were expected to adopt the American work ethic and work from dawn to dusk 7 days a week. Many of them said they preferred slavery, which gave them freedom from responsibility.
Many white American Very interesting and definitely politically incorrect revisions to the American history typically taught in schools. Many white Americans also resisted the work ethic and the idea that pleasure was sinful, and "lit out for the territories" or became criminals. Parents worried and scolded but couldn't stop it. More renegades came along with the immigrant Irish called "white n-word" , then Jews and Italians, each taking their turn as the despised foreigners, and each resisting it.
Prohibition provided new opportunities for organized crime, first headed by Jews, later by Italians. He shared this goal with Hitler and Mussolini, and the three watched and admired one another's efforts to bring it about by organizing and indeed regimenting their respective nations.
The media were controlled; resisters were punished. The regimentation intensified with WWII, as did censorship and propaganda. After the war the author returns to the relations between blacks and whites, and between blacks and blacks: Martin Luther King Jr. Much the same dichotomy is being played out between open gays, closet gays, those who want gay marriage and to serve openly in the military.
The point is that rebels and renegades are responsible for a good portion of the way American history has unfolded. The beginning was not particularly surprising, but later in the book there were many things I didn't know and found fascinating. A good read. Jun 09, Byron rated it it was amazing.
One of the more mind-blowing books I've ever read. Essentially, what it does is argue that throughout US history, progress has been driven by people who would generally be viewed as degenerates—not unlike how, for example, a lot of technological developments have been driven by people trying to find new ways to consume pr0n.
Aside from whatever aversion one might have to reading about drunks, prostitutes and what have you positive portrayals, no less , it's likely that almost anyone would be off One of the more mind-blowing books I've ever read. Aside from whatever aversion one might have to reading about drunks, prostitutes and what have you positive portrayals, no less , it's likely that almost anyone would be offended by some aspect of this book, even people who aren't usually prone to taking offense.
You can check some of the other reviews here to get an idea of the strong emotions this book provokes. For example, he argues that FDR was the equivalent of Hitler and that slaves were better off than their poor white counterparts. At times, you get the sense that he's trolling, but I'd say he offers some fairly compelling arguments. Apr 07, Oliver Bateman rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. Bored with the usual US survey texts and want a cultural history-focused account that you can argue with?
Here you go. With the exception of the civil rights chapter, about which Russell has done some solid work of his own, it's mostly a reimagining of his U. Sure, he plays fast and loose with examples--his reliance on 70s-era comparative work to draw parallels between the New Deal and European fascism is downright risible--but the book's readable as hell, privileges lazine Bored with the usual US survey texts and want a cultural history-focused account that you can argue with? Sure, he plays fast and loose with examples--his reliance on 70s-era comparative work to draw parallels between the New Deal and European fascism is downright risible--but the book's readable as hell, privileges laziness over hard work my students and I love that!
Because you're always disagreeing with or supplementing this material, it makes lecturing a breeze Assign it if you're eager to mix things up. Jun 17, Joel rated it it was amazing. Really revealing exploration which creates many questions for the conventionally educated.
This book gives me hope for survival against our current right wing advocates, although, reaching back into our history demonstrates a stunning sameness to the past. It seems to me that so many negative comments show a fear to 'question authority'. Jan 29, Stephen rated it really liked it Shelves: social-history , history , manners-and-morals , critical-history. Money they could use? There's just people like me!
Thaddaeus Russell's A Renegade History is a celebration of the unruly side of the common man, a tribute to those who just do "All of you, you think there's someone just gonna drop money on you? Thaddaeus Russell's A Renegade History is a celebration of the unruly side of the common man, a tribute to those who just don't behave the way they oughta.
It's a prickly history, guaranteed to irritate to some degree just about everyone who reads it. At its best, it demonstrates how 'progress' is a subjective label, and something that happens herky-jerky, from a maelstrom of confusion and strife; at its worst, it hails man's cravenness as heroic. The stage is set when, in the first chapter, Russell delights in how utterly depraved pre-revolutionary America was. There were more taverns than churches; prostitution, drugs, and dancing abounded, and whatever appetites existed in man's nature could be fed. And then came the American Revolution, and there went freedom.
With the war came sternness, moral discipline, and announcements that men must gird their loins not only for the martial fight against the Royal army, but for war against the sins of sloth, cowardice, and gluttony that would smother liberty in its cradle. After independence, the nation's leaders were not distant bureaucrats in London, turning an indulgent eye toward the shenanigans of their colonists, but influential scolds like John Adams, who strolled the harbors noting with pleasure the growing American navy, and ignoring with great dignity the whorehouses behind him.
The American nation took another direction, a more disciplined one -- but ever since, there have been those who swam against the current, who attempted to turn the drums of a forward march into the beat of a ragtime dance. Russell's offensive is two-fold, first sneering at both great men and the dignified minorities fighting for rights, and then Russell's chapter titles give away his delight in overturning expectations -- "The Freedom of Slavery", "How Gangsters Made America a Better Place", and "How Juvenile Delinquents Won the Cold War".
Although the Founding Fathers might, in defining freedom, look back to the hoplite-citizens of Greece and wax poetic on freedom'z ennobling effect on the human character, for Russell freedom is the ability to gorge, drink, rut, and sleep. Slaves, he writes, were often better off than free men. To be sure, they were beaten for misconduct, but their legal status as property meant owners were bound by self-interest.
They couldn't dismiss a slave, or stop feeding him for slacking on the job: they would forfeit every dime paid, every resource given before. Compare that to the northern factoryman, Russell urges, who worked long hours to the ruin of his body, who -- if he was injured, sick, or otherwise unable to continue -- was dismissed into the cold entirely. The apparent perversity continues throughout, as when Russell honors the Mafia; their fun habits of extortion, murder, and theft aside, they saw profit in opening gay bars in the s, so more power to them.
That they were doing this for selfish motives a la Adam Smith's butcher is Russell's concealed point: humans at their worst can create an environment where people are 'better off' in general. The obscene becomes the respectable, as when First Ladies began sporting the makeup that once belonged exclusively to Ladies of the Night. Civilization is the taming of human nature, the domestication of it -- perhaps even its suppression.
If there is any hope in A Renegade History, it is that human nature is simply too wild to remain in fetters for long: regardless of the dystopian nightmares of Orwell and Huxley, or dreams of politicians to inflict their favored order on us, humans are an unruly race. A Renegade History is infuriating, but I knew even as I held my nose going through, utterly unforgettable. Not only are there gems to be found shifting through the garbage of history -- startling facts, like that the FBI raid on the Stonewall Inn had more to do with its Mafia-owned status than a campaign of anti-gay persecution, or that Martin Luther King's success was predicated on being the alternative to the violence already sweeping American streets -- but there's some slight comfort in knowing how contrary we are.
Russell's heroes aren't protestors; they don't whine. They retaliate. They kick over tables, throw up middle fingers, and charge off. There's ferocious energy here, the energy of a riot. But while it was a disorderly, drunken mob that initiated the violence of the American Revolution in Boston, the prosperity that sustained them came from the peaceful, disciplined farms of civilization. It's refreshing to take a draft of the human spirit here -- there's such a kick to it -- but as always our best hope is the path of moderation -- a little work, a little play. Aug 16, Sam rated it really liked it.
This is a strange book, with something to repel readers of all major political persuasions. By "renegades" Russell means uncivilized people: hedonists; the irresponsible, undisciplined, and impulsive; low-income lovers of luxury, fashion and leisure; the frivolous and lazy; the over-indulgers; the selfish and criminal, the anti-ant grasshoppers. This is a popular, as opposed to scholarly, history of the USA no footnotes, few original sources , and it presents more a perspective than it does an This is a strange book, with something to repel readers of all major political persuasions.
This is a popular, as opposed to scholarly, history of the USA no footnotes, few original sources , and it presents more a perspective than it does an argument. That perspective is of the US as a nation ruled by puritans, with only renegade resistance and consumer culture making life bearable. Russell says in the introduction that his pro-renegade viewpoint applies specifically to US history, in other countries renegades have done a lot of damage.
Most of the chapters consist of descriptions of what some class of renegade did, followed by a brief statement that we should thank those renegades for our freedom, without the first being shown to cause the second. You'd think that sometimes renegade behavior would decrease freedom by provoking a backlash but you won't find that here. Indeed, Russell suggests that freedom is more often won by direct, often illegal, action than by lawfully working within the political system.
One theme that runs through the book is that many reformers -- the founding fathers, abolitionists, Reconstruction officials, feminists, civil rights leaders, et al -- have actually worked against freedom by trying to make renegades into hardworking, law-abiding, respectable, frugal, self-sacrificing, citizens. Russell credits increasing levels of African-American violence in Birmingham AL with MLK's successful desegregation negotiations, rather than the policy of nonviolent protest.
But what caused what? And if Russell is right about these two examples how frequently does this approach work? It's hard to believe that offending majority opinions can often be a winning strategy. I'd like to read a book in which Russell, a conservative historian and a liberal historian debate what reform movement strategies have worked in US history. To sum up: this book is thought-provoking -- more thought-provoking than convincing -- and includes entertaining descriptions of people and activities rarely discussed in history books.
Aug 30, Kip Williams rated it really liked it. Russell presents a "hidden" side of history, and puts forth the argument that we wouldn't have the society we have today, much less our sense of independence without the people that are so consistently labeled outlaw, renegade, or wear a virtual "badge", by dint of who they are and how they live their lives that puts them outside of "normal" or "nice" society's boundaries.
Russell does a thorough decade by decade examination, starting in pre-Revolutionary times, of the role that people, classes Russell presents a "hidden" side of history, and puts forth the argument that we wouldn't have the society we have today, much less our sense of independence without the people that are so consistently labeled outlaw, renegade, or wear a virtual "badge", by dint of who they are and how they live their lives that puts them outside of "normal" or "nice" society's boundaries.
Russell does a thorough decade by decade examination, starting in pre-Revolutionary times, of the role that people, classes of people, races and nationalities, and finally sub-cultures; all of whom were considered in their time to be different, or outside the boundaries. From the drunken sailors of port cities and bawdy women, through each era, there has always been a class of people who fearlessly weren't afraid to push boundaries and flip a finger to normal society, without fear.
Given the current socio-political climate, and a portion of the populace that is attempting to bring about a rigid theocracy imposed externally on the rest of us, it's important to remember exactly who we are, how we got here and how important the contributions of outsiders, bawdy loud women, sailors, loners, supposed outlaws, bikers, hippies, rock and rollers and rednecks are and the changes they've made to the composition and quilt of who are. Jan 07, Michael rated it liked it.
This is a fascinating book and a really shocking piece of revionist history at times, but it's getting a middling review from me because it just wasn't convincing. Te author consistently draws conclusions that I don't think are warranted by the evidence, does not dig very deep or think very deeply about certain conclusions and relies way too heavily on correlation and coincidence instead of providing context.
A Renegade History of the United States | Mises Institute
A couple of chapters spring instantly to mind - his comparison of New Deal era politics This is a fascinating book and a really shocking piece of revionist history at times, but it's getting a middling review from me because it just wasn't convincing. A couple of chapters spring instantly to mind - his comparison of New Deal era politics to Fascism and National Socialism in Europe was truly laughable at times He actually thinks the fact that FDR and Mussolini liked the same style of architecture is evidence of something or at least worth mentioning?
Also, i wanted to throw the book across the room when he talked about abou blaxplloitation films. His reading of the film Superfly specifically made me think he hadn't seen the film or at least that he hadn't thought about it. Anyway - super provocative; glad I read it; lots of information and analysis to chew on; the author is way too selective and obtuse about some things.
Jul 29, Jaded rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Any history buff. Shelves: americana , race-relations , cultural-studies , political , cant-wait-for-more , controversial , live-and-learn , counter-culture , favourites , subject-for-debate. Though there are a few points that I question, overall this is a great look back at American history focused upon the little known nor talked about influences of the power that the renegades of our culture have had in determining the fate of the nation. I am history buff and known as the master of useless trivia, and I walked away from this read enriched with a lot of facts that I had never known.
The book is fascinating and is well researched and footnoted. Any fan of history will love this work Though there are a few points that I question, overall this is a great look back at American history focused upon the little known nor talked about influences of the power that the renegades of our culture have had in determining the fate of the nation.