East City Bookshop welcomes local author David Kamens with his new book, A New American Creed: The Eclipse of Citizenship and Rise of Populism.
A new American creed has reconstructed the social contract. Generations from 1890 to 1940 took for granted that citizenship entailed voting, volunteering, religiosity, and civic consciousness. Conspicuously, the WWII generation introduced collectivist notions of civic obligations—but such obligations have since become regarded as options. In this book, David H. Kamens takes this basic shift as his starting point for exploring numerous trends in American political culture from the 1930s to the present day.
Drawing on and synthesizing an enormous array of primary and secondary materials, Kamens examines the critical role of macro social changes, such as the growth and expansion of government and education, often in response to the emergence of globalization. From these tectonic shifts erupted numerous ripple effects, such as the decline of traditional citizen values, the rise of individualism, loss of trust in institutions, anti-elitism, and dramatic political polarization. In this context, antagonism to government as an enemy of personal freedom grew, creating a space for populist movements to blossom, unrestrained by traditional political parties. Beyond painting a comprehensive picture of our current political landscape, Kamens offers an invaluable archive documenting the steps that got us here.
David H. Kamens is Professor of Sociology Emeritus at Northern Illinois University. He has written extensively in the fields of political, educational, and organization sociology. Prior publications include Beyond the Nation-State: The Reconstruction of Nationhood and Citizenship (Emerald Press, 2012). He and his wife are longtime residents of the Eastern Market neighborhood in DC.