The Devils We Know

Us and Them in America's Raucous Political Culture

James A. Morone

Is there an American culture? Certainly, says James Morone. Americans are fighting over it now. They have been fighting over it since the first Puritan stepped ashore. Americans hate government (no national health insurance!) and call for more of it (lock em up!). They prize democracy (power to the people) and scramble to restrict it (the electoral college in the 21st century?). They celebrate opportunity—but only for some (dont let those people in!). Americans proclaim liberty then wrestle over which kind—positive (freedom from want) or negative (no new taxes!)?

In this volume Morone offers his own answer to the conundrum of American political culture: It is a perpetual work in progress. Immigrants arrive, excluded groups demand power, and each generation injects new ethnicities, races, religions, ideas, foods, entertainments, sins, and body types into the national mix. The challengers—the devils we know—keep inventing new answers to the nations fundamental question: Who are we?

“Taken together, these powerful writings will make a major contribution to our understandings of American political thought, American political development, and American political culture. Morone’s informative collection will be indispensable for any scholar concerned with American health politics and policy, populism, wealth, power, the left, morality, the Culture Wars, and contemporary social and political issues.

—Reviews in History

“Morone is a lively writer and shrewd interpreter of political culture. . . . provide[s] an invigorating tour of multiple sites where American identity has been created and recreated over time.

—Journal of American History
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Each essay in The Devils We Know takes up a different aspect of the creative conflicts that shape America. Ranging from Huck Finn to Obamacare, Morone explores the ways in which culture interacts with other forces—most notably the rules and organizations that channel collective choices. The battle to define the nations political culture spills over into every area of American life, but three are especially important: democracy, economics, and morals — each, in turn, complicated by race, race, race. Written over 25 years, these essays constitute a closely observed and deeply thoughtful vision of what America is—its ideas, images, rules, institutions, and culture clashes. Together, they explain just why America is the way it is. And what it might become.

About the Author

James A. Morone is the John Hazen White Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Brown University. His many books include Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History, The Democratic Wish, The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office (with David Blumenthal) and, By the People: Debating American Government (with Rogan Kersh).