Chip Taylor Communications

Subject: History

Europe and America in the Modern Age Series

Stanford University Professors James Sheehan and David Kennedy present in-depth lectures on the concept of liberalism as a theoretical framework for examining the interrelationships between the histories of Europe and America. Produced by the Stanford University Channel. Programs available on 20 individual Click for more

14. The Modernization of American Liberal Thought

14. The Modernization of American Liberal Thought

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, there was a growing perception in America that society was "so powerfully energized that it was becoming uncontrollable." As was the case in Europe, the experience with the liberal tradition had bestowed mixed blessings upon the populace. Along with increased liberty and individualism came feelings of isolation, powerlessness, and loneliness, symptomatic of what Sigmund Freud termed "the psychological poverty of groups." In this program Professor David Kennedy examines the adaptation of American liberal thought to the forces of modernization. He focuses on two American intellectuals, William James and John Dewey, who, in direct contrast with Freud, saw resilience in American liberalism and its unwavering belief in the value of society as a vehicle for individual self-realization. James believed in the power of the human intellect and the individual's ability to impact his environment. Dewey similarly saw the human intellect not simply as a repository of knowledge, but as a tool humans could use to adjust to their environment and, in a collective sense, as a means through which groups could actively shape their governments and societies. Kennedy concludes the program by pointing out how America has been the locus of "persistently optimistic appraisals of the compatibility of the self with the society...and of our faith in the power of education." 99/10DE SCA 55 min.

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