01-06-2009 11:56 AM
Maybe 200 pages per month.
So if anyone else is reading this book, please post. It should be interesting.
I just got a copy of Kennedy's book, think I'll start reading it this week. One of the aspirations of the discipline of History has been the vague "promise" that if one knows the past, one just might be able to avoid re-living its mistakes. So, will reading-up on the First Great Depression help us understand our current economic crisis, and allow us to make more effective choices in averting "the worst" that may yet be coming -- a Second Great Depression? It is a sobering thought that many students of the Great Depression conclude that it truly ended only with our full engagement in the Second World War. Let's hope History does not necessarily HAVE to repeat itself that completely!
Just from my perusal of the first pages of his narrative, I like the way Kennedy writes, I think -- in terms of reader-comprehension, and the smooth flow of his presentation -- this book is going to be a "good read."
01-06-2009 04:56 PM - edited 01-06-2009 04:57 PM
Freedom From Fear
"The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945"
I think the sub-title of Kennedy's book to be of prime importance in trying to figure out WHY he wrote this volume, and HOW he will be using the "facts" to create his own narrative -- that is, the interpretational stance he will be employing throughout its pages. This book is touted as a "peoples' history," a social history of the U.S. nation between 1929 and 1945. As such, it is not primarily an economic history treating the causes, development and playing-out of the depression; nor is it a strict political/ military history trying to explicate the issues surrounding the Second World War; rather, as I see it, Kennedy seeks to detail the responses of the U.S. population to these twin calamities, the Great Depression and World War II. As I begin the task of reading this massive volume, I am wondering just now, if we might also interpret the main title "Freedom From Fear," as a sort of optimistic promise? Is Kennedy hinting (in his title) that the two great disasters of the mid-20th century will have a "happy ending?" Does he imply that the American People will be able to achieve that wonderful state of mind, that feeling of mass security that will come once they are able to attain this "Freedom from Fear?" If so, I suppose this might mean that Kennedy has a positive outlook on U.S. history, a belief that the American people could, and did overcome these twin disasters to create a new era of stability, prosperity, and a reduction in mass anxiety. Hmmm, that leaves me wondering why the post WW II era is precisely called, an Age of Anxiety...
Regarding our own, current crisis, I wonder if Kennedy is deliberately offering us a "hopeful" example of past responses to a similar crisis? The American people managed to overcome the dual blows of a Great Depression and a second Great War, and maybe, in learning how they coped with their disasters, we can find some sort of positive comfort as we seek a way out of our own? I guess, at this introductory point in my reading of Kennedy, I believe his volume will be an optimistic one, a tale of great misfortunes successfully endured, a people in travail finding a happy solution to their distresses, finding their "Freedom from Fear."
But, of course to my skeptical mind, this begs the following suite of questions (answerable only after I've read all 800 + pages of his narrative!):
1. Is the message of the past presented by Kennedy truly applicable to our current situation?
2. Just because the generations of 1920 - 1950 lived through their disasters, will we be able to find as happy a solution to our own?
3. Do we today, as those before us, still have nothing more to fear than fear itself?
01-07-2009 02:38 PM
I was able to pick up this series on sale a few years ago and yes, there is a lifetime of great reading in it. And some things I'm sure I'll never get around to reading, like Huygens's Treatise on Light.
BTW,the listing given in the Wikipedia page is for the original (1954) edition. The second edition has added some more current works and has made other changes (for example, Tristram Shandy is no longer in the set).
But it would make a great high school or even college graduation gift for someone who wanted to give something of lasting value. And while it's not cheap, at around $1,000 street price, on a per volume basis that's only $17 per volume, which for a hardback book of such extraordinary content isn't bad. (And it sometimes comes on sale for considerably less than $1,000.)
And one nice thing about this set, as opposed to an encyclopedia, is that it never goes out of date!
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
01-08-2009 06:59 AM
Hmmm, things are getting a bit messy on this topic line already. I suppose we can try to get back on topic by discussing the matter originally started by Adelle (a discussion concerning "Freedom From Fear" by Kennedy) or we can continue this as a multi-threaded conversation including simultaneous but NON-interacting lines: one on Kennedy's book; another on the basic belief systems of various authors including theosophical premises regarding the proper number and gender of the diety(ies) so involved; and one more apparently on classic book sources including the various crusades... LOL, it might be necessary then to assign distinguishing tags to the various sub-threads so we know just which issue is being addressesd by each of the contributors.
Sub-Thread # 1 = the original base of this topic, a discussion of Kennedy's book "Freedom From Fear." When I add my pieces here, they will almost always be concerned with just this sub-thread, though a bit of overlap may show up if we decide to pursue Kennedy's credentials for writing this book, or try to get an understanding of his personal beliefs/ values and how they may have shaped his interpretations of the fact-body data he is using.
So, is anyone else actually reading Kennedy's book? I'm going through the preface/ introductions and the Prologue, pp 1-10, today, then swing into chapter 1, pp 10-33 -- and I guess if this remains a catch-all topic, I'll just label my sub-thread, #1, and slip my observation of Kennedy's book in between the other threads.
We'll see how confusing this becomes when a sub-thread 1 message is followed (unannounced) by a sub-thread two statement... LOL!
01-08-2009 08:37 AM
The arrival of a massive intellect who also want topical sensibility brought to Adelle's original post in establishing this thread is admirable and refreshing! That is Prunesquallor. No sarcasm intended. I still call God a she, or maybe neither a he or she, but back to the point.
Prunesquallor makes excellent points here. The idea that the situation now is different than during the Great D is interesting. Author Kevin Phillips advance a challenging opinion premised on facts in his book American Theocracy and his more recent book The idea among others that one very different fact between the two eras is that now, for the first time in US history, our financial sector is "bigger" than our manufacturing sector. IN American Theocracy he draws parallels with declining economic powers historically finding themselves in similar positions, such as the Dutch and Spanish empires. C-Span recently did a 3 hour "in-depth" program with Phillips. I would hope that his observations don't hold true. The unregulated and often immoral facts of globalization need be revised significantly I am afraid to avoid the trend since 1980, and trend more poignant since 2000. I wish I had time to read Kennedys book now, and don't know if I can. I am sure I will read the discussion of all of you who participate here and read this book, however. It is quite timely to read this book, most surely.
01-08-2009 01:45 PM - edited 01-08-2009 01:45 PM
I enjoyed Theocracy and some of Phillips' participation in various round-table discussions in Harper's. He's an interesting critic of Reagan and post-Reagan conservatism and an unregulated free market principally because he has really interesting conservative bona fides. It was Phillips and Pat Buchanan, amongst others, who were the architects of the republican's 1968 "Southern Strategy" of harnessing southern democrats who abandoned the party over the Civil Rights Bill. That he's now such a strident critic of cynical republican political tactics when he contributed to what has turned out to be one of the worst in recent memory seems perversely funny.
How would you say the two situations were different? I ask, because you can see similarities between this and the 1930s in that both crises were driven by virtually unrestricted market speculation (then: because instruments of regulation were not in place; now: because the those controlling the instruments came from the same field they were intended to regulate and were also willing to believe in the wisdom of those they were supposed to regulate) and a collapse of liquidity. Granted, in the case of TGD, liquidity problems were exacerbated by runs on banks, but in both cases, the institutions of lending couldn't/can't stimulate commerce because the money isn't there.
01-09-2009 04:56 PM
L_Monty I appreciate your points on Kevin Phillips. I find the man provocative.
I agree with your analysis as well. Your analysis may not sum up all that is wrong, but sure states a big part of it. We ignore for the sake of brevity the moral disaster that is our health system compared with universal health in all other Western democracies, for example. Nonetheless you have succinctly defined Phillips, a big picture commentator as well as a man of many details, who may have stunning insights (he saw the real estate bubble loud and clear in a book published in 2005--American Theocracy).
In engaging in grand projective and predictive schemes, he also will be prone to miss the mark on occasion. I hope that you as well are here on this board so that I can learn even if not reading the Kennedy book. Thanks for your comment.
08-29-2009 08:39 PM
lol I been trying to figure out how to reply on this thing. things have goten a bit strict around here I can tell.