No Place of Grace is a book that explores the roots of American antimodernism in the years 1880-1920.
The author argues that a sense of anxiety, weightlessness, and helplessness emerged among American intellectual elite in the face of a rapidly developing industrial capitalist society in the late nineteenth century. The book focuses on issues such as religion, politics, neurasthenia, and the psychological impacts that this had on people after the civil war through the early twentieth century.
The main themes of the book include:
- Antimodernism in early industrial America
- The impact of industrialization on American culture
- The psychological effects of modernization on individuals
- The role of religion in shaping American culture
- The emergence of a therapeutic world view
Useful takeaways from the book include:
- The unintended consequences of antimodern resistance among the educated bourgeoisie
- The creative appropriation of selective aspects and symbols of the past by ambivalent antimodernists to quell their individual internal struggles
- The way in which antimodernists served as a complex matrix of both protest and accommodation
- The physical, moral, and spiritual longings at play among these dissenters
- The way in which they unconsciously solidified their own domination and planted a firm foundation for a therapeutic consumer culture which endures to the present day.
What I Liked
This book sums up the saying that “history never repeats, but it does rhyme.” The last time America went through an era of wrenching technological change paired with massive inequality and globalization was the 1890s. This book covers what happened then and how average people responded to the change.
And…they basically responded the same way we are responding today. There are so many similarities. It’s almost reassuring in a resigned-kind-of-way that this era will pass and we’ll keep moving on.
What I Did Not Like
It’s a bit academic and not as engaging as a popular history book.