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What They Saw in America
Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, G. K. Chesterton, and Sayyid Qutb

$28.99 (G)

  • Date Published: May 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316601594

$ 28.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • Grounded in the stories of their actual visits, What They Saw in America takes the reader through the journeys of four distinguished, yet very different foreign visitors - Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, G. K. Chesterton and Sayyid Qutb - who traveled to the United States between 1830 and 1950. The comparative insights of these important outside observers (from both European and Middle Eastern countries) encourage sober reflection on a number of features of American culture that have persisted over time - individualism and conformism, the unique relationship between religion and capitalism, indifference toward nature, voluntarism, attitudes toward race, and imperialistic tendencies. Listening to these travelers' views, both the ambivalent and even the more unequivocal, can help Americans better understand themselves, more fully empathize with the values of other cultures, and more deeply comprehend how the United States is perceived from the outside.

    • Offers insights into how America is perceived from the outside
    • Explores the travels and writing of four important foreign visitors
    • Will help Americans gain a better understanding of themselves
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Tocqueville strikingly observed that Americans live in 'perpetual adoration' of themselves and that 'only foreigners or experience can make certain truths reach their ears.' These remarks, quoted at the beginning of James Nolan’s impressive work on the most reflective foreign observers of American democracy, provide the point of departure for a fascinating study.' Daniel J. Mahoney, City Journal

    'James Nolan, Jr, a distinguished sociologist at Williams College, has written an extremely illuminating report on the judgments of four distinguished visitors to the United States … What They Saw in America is an indispensable tool for thoughtful Americans and their visitors.' David P. Deavel, Gilbert

    ‘The assembled experiences and viewpoints of these scholars compose an attractive description of the New World, provided with words of admiration and hints of irony … an enjoyable piece of reading, a very good book.' Simonetta Piccone Stella, Sociologica

    'The perspective of certain astute foreigners is the great virtue of James Nolan’s absorbing book … the hard look in the mirror Nolan’s book offers us is a very timely gift.' Charles J. Chaput, First Things

    'Is America any longer a nation with good character? This fraught political question, striking at the heart of culture and identity, receives provocative yet judicious attention from James L. Nolan, Jr. in What They Saw in America, a new study of four of the most famous foreign critics of the United States … Nolan’s searching analysis raises many pressing questions …' James Poulos, Law & Liberty Book Reviews (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316601594
    • length: 306 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Pride, patriotism, and the mercantilist spirit: Tocqueville and Beaumont discover America
    3. Tocqueville and the quandary of American democracy
    4. Agrarianism, race, and the end of romanticism: Weber in early twentieth-century America
    5. Weber on sects, schools, and the spirit of capitalism
    6. A new Martin Chuzzlewit: Chesterton on main street
    7. Chestertonian distributism and the democratic ideal
    8. From Musha to New York: Qutb encounters American jahiliyya
    9. Qutb's 'inquiring eyes' in Colorado and California
    10. Conclusion.

  • Author

    James L. Nolan, Jr, Williams College, Massachusetts
    James L. Nolan, Jr is a Professor of Sociology at Williams College, Massachusetts. His teaching and research interests fall in the general areas of law and society, culture, technology and social change, and historical comparative sociology. His previous books include Legal Accents, Legal Borrowing: The International Problem-Solving Court Movement (2009), Reinventing Justice: The American Drug Court Movement (2001), and The Therapeutic State: Justifying Government at Century's End (1998). He is the recipient of several grants and awards including National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships and a Fulbright scholarship. He has held visiting fellowships at the University of Oxford, Loughborough University, and the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

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