9780375413070 / 0375413073

Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World





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About the book:

With the publication of his first book, For Common Things, Jedediah Purdy stormed the capital . . . with an unfashionably passionate attack on the dangers of modern passionlessness and established himself as a social critic eloquent beyond his years (Time). In his new book, Being America, Purdy applies his fresh and vibrant voice (Kirkus Reviews) to exploring how America is perceived, emulated, and judged in a rapidly changing world.

His journeys in Asia, Africa, and around the States illuminate the impact that Americas foreign policy and consumer culture leave on ordinary people. Purdy meets Westernized Egyptian party girls who consider Osama bin Laden a hero; an environmental activist in Indonesia whose models are McKinsey consultants and Afghan Jihadis; a Hindu nationalist in India who calls America a corrupt cultural wasteland, and then tells him, wistfully, The world is waiting to become you. Purdy examines how America can simultaneously inspire love and hate, and he explains why our promotion of democracy and free-market capitalism is at times welcome, while at others read as an expression of violent imperialism.

Much more than travel reportage, Being America is a meditation on the meaning of politics. With the wisdom and sensitivity that earned him earlier acclaim, Purdy explores how communities and individuals the world over interpret international phenomena. He argues that whenever the United States acts in a fashion that is ignorant, hypocritical, opportunistic, or arrogant, it weakens the case for our version of the future and undercuts people in every country who are working for it. His travels, both around the globe and in the literature that forms the ideological base of our country, lead Purdy to propose that the United States pursue a politics that is humane and attuned to the differing ambitions of other cultures. Being America is a remarkable declaration by a writer who dares to be sober and idealistic.

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