A More Perfect Union

A More Perfect Union : Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II

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In 1962, when the Cold War threatened to ignite in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when more nuclear test bombs were detonated than in any other year in history, Rachel Carson released her own bombshell, Silent Spring, to challenge society's use of pesticides. To counter the use of chemicals-and bombs-the naturalist articulated a holistic vision. She wrote about a "web of life" that connected humans to the world around them and argued that actions taken in one place had consequences elsewhere. Pesticides sprayed over croplands seep into ground water and move throughout the ecosystem, harming the environment. Thousands accepted her message, joined environmental groups, flocked to Earth Day celebrations, and lobbied for legislative regulation. Carson was not the only intellectual to offer holistic answers to society's problems. This book uncovers a holistic sensibility in post-World War II American culture that both tested the logic of the Cold War and fed some of the twentieth century's most powerful social movements, from civil rights to environmentalism to the counterculture. The study examines six important leaders and institutions that embraced and put into practice a holistic vision for a peaceful, healthful, and just world: nature writer Rachel Carson; structural engineer R. Buckminster Fuller; civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.; Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow; and the Esalen Institute and its founders, Michael Murphy and Dick Price. Each looked to whole systems instead of parts and focused on connections, interdependencies, and integration to create a better world. In the 1960s and 1970s, holistic conceptions and practices infused the March on Washington, Earth Day, the human potential movement, New Age spirituality, and alternative medicine. Though dreams of creating a more perfect world were tempered by economic inequalities, political corruption, and deep social divisions, this sensibility influenced American culture in important ways that continue into the twenty-first century.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 156 x 238 x 24mm | 580.6g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 11 black and white halftones
  • 0195377745
  • 9780195377743
  • 1,370,088

About Linda Sargent Wood

Linda Sargent Wood Assistant Professor of History, Arizona State Universityshow more

Review quote

Makes a strong, well-argued case for holism's pervasiveness and influence; and the research and writing are impressive. * CHOICE * This is a very important book, one that breaks new ground in recovering and analyzing very important aspects of the histories of the long 1960s. Wood effectively reveals a critically important cultural movement/moment-one whose impulses were central to the period and retain their presence in our world. The writing is vigorous and clear; the research very thorough. * Daniel Horowitz, Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of American Studies, Smith College * Readable and well-crafted, A More Perfect Union contributes significantly to modern American cultural history. With originality and insight, Linda Sargent Wood traces key intellectual and cultural trends that converged after World War II to create a 'holistic' worldview whose influence crested in the 1960s and early '70s. * Paul S. Boyer, Editor in Chief, The Oxford Companion to United States History * Linda Sargent Wood has produced a creative history of post-World War II American culture by centering it on the idea and manifestation of holism... She approaches the topic through five individuals and one institution, each the focus of a chapter of the book. The diversity of these subjects demonstrates well the wide extent of holism in various walks of American life at this time, while their interconnections suggest the multiple ways holism converged. A More Perfect Union prompts a consideration of wholes and parts, communities and individuals, the global and the local. * Environmental Ethics *show more

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