The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam | Paperback
The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam
Brian M. Downing
The Paths of Glory is a timely and engaging study of the effects of modern war on America. The World Wars and Vietnam, the author argues, formed the basic contours of much of twentieth-century American history - political, economic, social, and cultural. America in 1917 was a confident and optimistic nation. Only a year later, after the Great War, this was no longer the case. Leaders lost the romantic aura they had long enjoyed. Religious strictures began to fall away; consumerism replaced denial. In 1938, the country was mired in depression, the New Deal was in disarray, and unemployment was soaring - the country seemed near collapse. At the close of the Second World War, unemployment was low; beliefs and institutions were once more held high. Confidence and faith continued until the 1960s, but Vietnam undermined almost all beliefs and institutions.
Wars have propelled America from a traditional past structured by families, communities, religion, faith in progress, and a sense of a national whole to a postmodern present of atomization, fragmentation, secularization, and anomie. We may see the old beliefs and institutions of America as good or bad, fair or unjust, universal or particularistic; but they served an important integrative role, and nothing has taken their place.
Brian M. Downing is the author of several works on the influence of war in history, including The Military Revolution and Political Change. At the age of eighteen, he studied Vietnamese history under the auspices of the Department of Defense, and he later held positions at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. He is currently writing a study of war, religion, and the state in Antiquity, part of a larger study of “war romance” in Western history from ancient times until the present.
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