9780375407086 / 0375407081

For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today


3.55 avg rating177 ratings by GoodReads

Publisher:Knopf, 1999



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About the book:

Unusual and impressive, this is a twenty-four-year-old writer's ringing and heartfelt plea for renewed commitment to--and faith in--American civic and political life.

Given the cynicism rampant in America today, Jedediah Purdy's endeavor may seem quixotic. But he persuasively argues the necessity and satisfactions of social and political reengagement and of renewed attention to the "common things" we all have a stake in: the environment, education, culture, law, and government. Drawing on a wide range of sources--from Thoreau to Seinfeld--he contemplates such questions as the use of irony in popular culture, the breakdown of our political processes, and the moral and legal dilemmas posed by technological advances. In these and other discussions, he lures us away from disbelief and detachment toward a sincere devotion to the healing and betterment of society.

Homeschooled in rural West Virginia, Purdy went on to study at Harvard; this dual experience fuels his lucid and often unsettling observations. His thinking is fresh, his tone civil, his criticism constructive. What he suggests is that we can hope for a sound society if we work for it: each of us is responsible for the common good and for upholding the integrity of common things. This is an engaging, honest, and bracing reminder of what it is that we value in our society, and of our responsibility to preserve it.

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