chapter  10
24 Pages

The Problem of Ideology in a Time of Dissensus

The American ideology suggests something almost allegorical-some abstract corporate monolith-whereas in fact the American ideology reflects a particular set of interests, the power structures and conceptual forms of liberal society in the United States, as these evolved through three centuries of conflict, upheaval, transformation, and discontinuity. The Myth and Symbol School represented a generation of scholars who were discovering the field of American Studies. When Robert Rantoul invokes the tenets of laissez-faire to attack the abuses of capitalism, his views are said to be contradictory or ambivalent. In the mid-nineteenth century the main source of dissent was an indigenous residual culture, variously identified with agrarianism, libertarianism, and civic humanism. The literary establishment that substituted 'Song of Myself' for The Song of Hiawatha also sanctified Whitman as outsider and non-conformist. The rhetoric here is inseparable from the country's astonishing economic, political, and technological achievements in the nineteenth century. The development of American Studies abroad took form of an academic Marshall Plan.