Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Horwitz: America Studies Approaches and Concepts

       A reader sent me the essay "American Studies: Approaches and Concepts" by Richard P. Horwitz: .
       I was not terribly impressed.  I don't know who Richard Horwitz is -- even after visiting his website and skimming some of his other essays.  He has a talent for presenting a lot of technical machinery and relating it to very little. 
       I did in the past read Parrington's Main Currents in American Thought and Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land but none of the more recent works he mentions.  On the other hand, he doesn't mention any of the works I would recommend for understanding America, especially Walter Russell Mead's Special Providence, American Foreign Policy and How it changed the world.  And what good are "American Studies" that don't deal with the spread of Liberal Democracy throughout the world as described by Francis Fukuyama -- and the anti-American reactions in Europe and elsewhere or the potential conflicts described by Samuel P. Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order?  Perhaps Horwitz would say that I am taking "American Studies" beyond its proper bounds, but I would counter by asking what good these studies are if they refuse to explore such matters? 
      I have grown to mistrust Area Studies as a result of the actual harm done by the Middle Eastern results (see Ivory Towers of Sand, The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America by Martin Kramer) .  While Horwitz doesn't inspire me to think the equivalent American Studies will cause that level of harm, he hasn't convinced me they will do any sort of good.

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