Reflections on America

Reflections on America : Tocqueville, Weber and Adorno in the United States

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At a time when so many cracks have emerged within the imagined community of 'the West', this important new book, by one of the leading social scientists in Europe, examines the intellectual history of comparing Europe and the United States. Claus Offe considers the perspectives adopted by three of Europe's greatest social scientists - Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber and Theodor W. Adorno - in their comparative writings on Europe. While travelling, studying and working in the US, all three constantly looked back to their European origins, trying to decipher from their American experience what the future may hold for Europe, be it for better or worse. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat, observed the functioning of American democracy with a mix of admiration, envy and deep concerns about the fate of liberty in the 'democratic age'. Max Weber, the German sociologist, reported enthusiastically about the youthful energy he found in the United States, which, however, he saw as gradually succumbing to the stifling tendencies of European bureaucratization. Theodor W.
Adorno, the critical theorist and refugee from Nazi Germany, observed with a sense of despair the workings of the American 'culture industry' which he equated to the totalitarian experience of Europe, only to switch to a much more favourable picture upon his return to Germany. Europe and the US are conventionally assumed to share the same trajectory and develop according to some common pattern of 'occidental rationalism', with the observed differences resulting from mere lags and relative advances on one side or the other. In this insightful book, Offe questions the relevance of this paradigm to transatlantic relations today.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 140 pages
  • 140 x 214 x 16mm | 299.38g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised
  • 0
  • 0745635059
  • 9780745635057

Back cover copy

At a time when so many cracks have emerged within the imaginedcommunity of 'the West', this important new book, by one ofthe leading social scientists in Europe, examines the intellectualhistory of comparing Europe and the United States. Claus Offeconsiders the perspectives adopted by three of Europe'sgreatest social scientists - Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weberand Theodor W. Adorno - in their comparative writings onEurope.
While traveling, studying and working in the US, all threeconstantly looked back to their European origins, trying todecipher from their American experience what the future may holdfor Europe, be it for better or worse. Alexis de Tocqueville, theFrench aristocrat, observed the functioning of American democracywith a mix of admiration, envy and deep concerns about the fate ofliberty in the 'democratic age'. Max Weber, the Germansociologist, reported enthusiastically about the youthful energy hefound in the United States, which, however, he saw as graduallysuccumbing to the stifling tendencies of Europeanbureaucratization. Theodor W. Adorno, the critical theorist andrefugee from Nazi Germany, observed with a sense of despair theworkings of the American 'culture industry' which heequated to the totalitarian experience of Europe, only to switch toa much more favorable picture upon his return to Germany.
Europe and the US are conventionally assumed to share the sametrajectory and develop according to some common pattern of'occidental rationalism', with the observed differencesresulting from mere lags and relative advances on one side or theother. In this insightful book, Offe questions the relevance ofthis paradigm to transatlantic relations today.
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Table of contents

* I.Introduction * II.Alexis de Tocqueville or the Tyranny of the Middle Class * III.Max Weber: American Escape Routes from the Iron Cage * IV.Theodor W. Adorno: 'Culture Industry' and Other Views of the 'American Century' * V.The United States in the Twenty-First Century: Traditions of Religions Socialization and Struggle against 'Evil'
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Review quote

"Reflections on America is simultaneously an excellent contribution to sociological theory and to historical-comparative research." Sociological Review "A concise, rich account of three salient European socio-theoretical perspectives on America and their implications for Europe." Matthias Benzer, British Journal of Sociology "The author offers valuable insights on American exceptionalism and its consequences for domestic and international politics ... For readers more interested in current developments in American politics, the appeal of the book lies in Offe's insights about the contribution of foreign policy to the effectiveness of the American melting pot and to social cohesion." Alvaro Morcillo, British Journal of Sociology "In this elegant and inspiring book, Claus Offe shows how America time and again has served Europeans as a screen on which to project their own visions of society, revealing as much about the old continent as about the new world." Abram de Swaan, Amsterdam School of Social Research
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About Claus Offe

Claus Offe, Humboldt University, Berlin Translated by P. Camiller
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