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A Visionary Nation: Four Centuries of American Dreams and What Lies Ahead [Hardcover]

Zachary Karabell

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st Edition edition (July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380978571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380978571
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,648,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
In the spring of 1583, the half brother of Sir Walter Raleigh set off from Plymouth, England, intending to settle the east coast of Maine, near the inlet of the Penobscot River. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, thought-provoking book 1 Dec 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Karabell is one of those rare birds who's obviously supersmart and broadly knowledgeable, but who writes cleanly and accessibly about important subjects for a general reader. In the past he's done everything from diplomatic history to a study of the American higher educational system to a book about the 1948 election, and all were excellent, although not particularly widely read. I hope this one finds a larger audience, because it really deserves it. He goes over the entire sweep of American history, capturing the essence of different ages, and tells us where we've been and where we're going. A must-read for people interested in the general course of national views on politics, the market, and society.
5.0 out of 5 stars An examination of our great expectations 14 Oct 2009
By G. Andrews - Published on Amazon.com
I bought A VISIONARY NATION after hearing Mr. Karabell express investment opinions on tv. His was a world view, not a narrow Wall Street trader's view and when I googled him I found that he had written several books on history & political science.

From the preface:
"The United States is a visionary nation. Americans believe in the promise of a better world. Unlike other societies, the United States has no shared ethnicity, no common religion, no sense of historical heritage. Instead, there is an idea. Running through the currents of our history is a presumption that it is possible to have it all...."

The book summarizes Karabell's interpretation of the succession of utopian visions we have followed and then abandoned when they failed to provide us with all the contradictory things we desired, e.g. money AND happiness, independence AND community, etc. The Religion of the early Puritans gave way to Individualism and freedom in the Revolutionary period. After separation from England a vision of national Unity took hold, solidified by the Civil War. But that didn't provide everyone with everything and so the idea of economic and geographical Expansion evolved to provide opportunity for all. This was the era of the robber barons and opportunity went mainly to the few. It was also a messy period and led to the vision of Government as regulator of industry and protector of the people.

We have entered the stage of disenchantment with the ability of government to solve all problems and are presently looking to the Market and the Internet to bring us wealth and happiness. This also is unlikely to bring us spiritual fulfillment or to improve the lot of the majority, so another idea will eventually evolve. Karabell theorizes that this will be Connectedness. (The book was published in 2001 and a lot has happened since then, but recent trends seem to confirm that idea.) In a final section he discusses possible alternatives to chasing one idealistic conception after another.

I recommend this book on every level. Karabell's writing style is clear, concise and straightforward and his ideas strike me as original, well-reasoned and extensively researched. In my humble opinion the subject is important and helps to explain our collective schizophrenia.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What about. . . 19 Sep 2001
By jimc - Published on Amazon.com
A fun and informative book. What about. . . I believe that Eisenhower's leadership on the development of the interstate system has had as great an impact on the culture and vision of America as some of the other references made by the author.
CORRECTION: We of Kentucky roots want the author and the editors of the book to know that the reference to Cane Ridge on page 56 is incorrect. Cane Ridge is in Kentucky, not Tennessee.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick concise history lesson 20 Sep 2001
By jimc - Published on Amazon.com
A solid book with great insight into history. Informative and remarkably concise and very well written.
One observation:
Social observers overlook the impact of Eisenhower's interstate highway system, it changed America then, and will continue to play a major part in its future.
One correction:
Cane Ridge is in Kentucky not Tennessee. (pg.56)
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