"The American Paradox" by David G.              Myers

The American Paradox Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty David G. Myers

Publication date:
11 Aug 2001
Yale University Press
432 pages: 197 x 127mm

For Americans entering the twenty-first century, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Material wealth is at record levels, yet disturbing social problems reflect a deep spiritual poverty. In this compelling book, well-known social psychologist David G. Myers asks how this paradox has come to be and, more important, how we can spark social renewal and dream a new American dream.

Myers explores the research on social ills from the 1960s through the 1990s and concludes that the materialism and radical individualism of this period have cost us dearly, imperiling our children, corroding general civility, and diminishing our happiness. However, in the voices of public figures and ordinary citizens he now hears a spirit of optimism. The national dialogue is shifting—away from the expansion of personal rights and toward enhancement of communal civility, away from efforts to raise self-esteem and toward attempts to arouse social responsibility, away from “whose values?” and toward “our values.” Myers analyzes in detail the research on educational and other programs that deal with social problems, explaining which seem to work and why. He then offers positive and well-reasoned advice, suggesting that a renewed social ecology for America will rest on policies that balance “me thinking” with “we thinking.”

David G. Myers is John Dirk Werkman Professor of Psychology at Hope College.

Winner of a Merit Award by Christianity Today in the Spirituality category

"In this absorbing and scrupulously fair-minded book, David Myers addresses a principal paradox of our times?the persistence of spiritual want in the midst of material plenty. Though he sees much to praise in the achievement of unprecedented individual freedom and material affluence, he also finds compelling evidence of social and psychological poverty. But readers may rest assured: this is not a bad news book. Myers offers a sober appraisal of our present condition with a hopeful and plausible vision for the future."?Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of The Divorce Culture

?Especially meaningful and timely, this superbly written book focuses on family, character, community, and culture to illuminate its overarching theme?the need for a more communitarian way of thinking in America.??David Popenoe, Rutgers University

"An important book for a troubled time. In the midst of plenty we have lost confidence in our purposes. Myers helps us to understand why."?Jean Bethke Elshtain, author of Democracy on Trial

?The book is an eye-opener. By assembling the wealth of converging data on such topics as children raised in single-parent families; the probability of divorce given cohabitation, genetics, and religious beliefs; the relationships between happiness and wealth; sexual changes over the past forty years; and funding for children versus adults, Dr. Myers educates not only the layman but the sophisticated reader as well.??Martin E. P. Seligman, author of Learned Optimism

?A new millennium calls for a new vision of America. We have had enough blatant materialism, too much selfish sexism that makes a mockery of marriage and family. The American Paradox gives us such a new vision of America and we would do well to read it seriously. As the good book says: ?Without vision the people perish.???Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C, President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

?Despite unprecedented national affluence, symptoms of moral confusion abound. Myers catalogs these symptoms?violent crime, political cynicism, unrestrained greed, irresponsible media, broken homes?and he investigates their cultural significance. . . . Myers has confronted our social dilemma with rare honesty.??Booklist

?A call to action, an exhortation to hope, this book is clearly required reading for the concerning citizen. All collections.??Choice

?A fair minded and extensively researched analysis of the conditions and social dynamics affecting our happiness, values, and relationship.??Doubletake

?This is a wide-ranging, well-written critique that argues that Americans need to regain a communitarian connection to one another and to rebuild the institutions (government, marriage, religion) that Myers believes are historically responsible for maintaining America?s social cohesion.??Library Journal

?What is particularly useful . . . is Myers? insistence on transcending knee-jerk political positions. He surely has something to provoke everyone?s ire. . . . It?s hard to resist the passionate conviction with which Myers proposes a recommitment to faith.??Peter Clothier, Los Angeles Times

?This assessment of where we have been and where we are headed is enormously impressive, both in its scope and in its depth. In fact, I wondered how Myers managed to master?with so much nuanced understanding?recent research on such a wide range of topics. Then I wondered how he managed to present this complicated and often contradictory literature so clearly, accurately, and with such wit. As I read I was often struck by the sheer beauty of the language and the rhythm of the words. But all this is packaging. The book shines in the clarity, insight, and courage of the arguments; the skillful use of recent research and facts to support the argument and the craft displayed in the writing also add to the book?s impact. American Paradox is a book well worth reading.??Linda Waite, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 

?Myers issues a call for America to study, learn, and grow from the spiritual void within materialistic society. He takes the reader from ?me thinking? to ?we thinking? as a hope for the future. The work is a researched-based discussion on issues often found in general conversation today.??Susan Stewart, University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries

Selected as an outstanding book by University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries

"A remarkable book: combines the findings of social science with good sense, better yet?with keen moral judgement. Well written by an outstanding social psychologist."?Amitai Etzioni, author of The Spirit of Community