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Age of Fracture

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  276 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the ideas that most Americans lived by started to fragment. This book shows how the collective purposes and meanings that had framed social debate became unhinged and uncertain. It offers a reinterpretation of the ways in which the decades surrounding the 1980s changed America.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 1st 2011 by Belknap Press (first published December 21st 2010)
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Steven Peterson
Jan 16, 2011 rated it liked it
This book deals with an important issue: the decline of a sense of community in the United States. The dust jacket says: ". . .Daniel Rodgers shows how the collective purposes and meanings that had framed social debate became unhinged and uncertain." To explain the title of the book, Rodgers notes that (Page 3): ". . .the last quarter of the century was an era of disaggregation, a great age of fracture."

Some of the aspects of this fracture that are addressed: the change from a managed economy to
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it
When I first started reading this book, which I pulled more or less at random off my shelf, I was a little mystified why I had bought it. I thought, from its title, it would be political philosophy, but instead it was intellectual history, of the last quarter of the twentieth century. The book seemed crisp and dispassionate at first, though it quickly revealed itself as somewhat meandering and biased. After a little research, I realized that in 2012 "Age of Fracture" had won the Bancroft Prize, ...more
Ldrutman Drutman
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
he Princeton Historian Daniel T. Rodgers has written a fascinating new book about how the U.S. has gone from being one big beacon of light to a thousand little points. The title gives it away. We are in an Age of Fracture. We’ve gone from shared sacrifice and shared identities to individual expression and diffuse identities. We’ve gone from limits to dreams; we’ve shed the confines of the past for the endless possibilities of future reinvention. The only problem is, it’s starting to look like we ...more
Joshua Buhs
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it

Daniel T. Rodgers takes on a very difficult task--writing about the very recent past from a historical perspective--and does so really well. He is able to step outside the current ways of thinking--our controlling metaphors--and show how they came into being, what they illuminate and what they make difficult to see. The book touches upon social history, sociology, political history, and public policy--he's dealing with on-going debates, so it's had to divvy these subjects up--but this
Pete Davis
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a tremendous book. This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in a quite comprehensive intellectual history of the past 40 years. I'm one year into my reading project to answer "what the heck happened?" -- what, in the last half century, has led to our current American political malaise -- and this book has been one of the most useful in my pursuit of an answer.
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it
The good: This is actually a great work for pulling together so many different intellectual texts from so recent a time period (mostly 1970s & 80s). It's a good jumping off point for anyone looking to dig into this era of intellectual history more. There were certainly a lot of trends and shifts in thought that I didn't know about it, so it was valuable for insight into where we are now.

The bad: I felt that Rodgers was not particularly adept at explaining some of the more complicated concept
Alex Stroshine
"Age of Fracture" covers the history of ideas in the United States during the last quarter of the 20th century. Daniel T. Rodgers discusses how thought and theories affecting large topics such as economics, race, gender, language and power rapidly shifted, were rearranged and fell out of favour. The book reminds me of a larger scale version of George Marsden's "The Twilight of the American Enlightenment," where Marsden summarizes the major thinkers and books that shaped and informed the 1950s. R ...more
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The irony of The Age of Fracture is that it triumphs at asserting a style of historical scholarship that should not thrive in this age: a synthesis, in the style of Richard Hofstadter, Daniel Bell, or Christopher Lasch, that links ideas, politics and social change in an unabashedly essayistic style. And it's true that succeeding at this style is rare in an, um, age of fracture. But Rodgers produces a first draft of recent American history that every subsequent historian must address.

The argumen
Justin Evans
Apr 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-etc
Some books win prizes because they're excellent; some books win prizes because they're timely. Chalk Rodgers' Bancroft up to timeliness, I'm afraid. This is a solid history of ideas in America since the seventies: new market-based politics; reactions to and extensions of '60s moral liberalism and relativism; constitutional scholarship; the post-war social sciences and reactions against them, particularly in terms of identity politics; historiography; political philosophy etc etc... He crams a lo ...more
Mike Hankins
Nov 05, 2013 rated it liked it
In this intellectual history of the latter twentieth century (focusing more on the 70s into the 80s), Daniel Rodgers paints a bleak picture of disintegrating ideas and growing confusion.

As the prosperity of post-WW2 consuption started to die out, previously honored economic models like Keynesian economics were perceived to be failing. Without a clear strategy to replace it, various models competed, and nothing seemed to be working to combat stagflation. This wasn't just an economic problem, acc
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Won the Bancroft in 2011. Dissects cultural and political scene from 1970 to 2000. conclusions you can guess from title. Chapters on topics like presidential speech emphases, women's issues, academic debates about meaning, etc.
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For Rodgers, the last decades of the twentieth century were a period of tremendous “disaggregation,” witness to a shift in the language and metaphors used to describe society from the “social” to the “economic.” It was a time when “strong metaphors of society were supplanted by weaker ones. Imagined collectivities shrank; notions of structure and power thinned out.” During the Age of Fracture, Americans began to parse society, economics, identity and history through the metaphor of ‘the market.’ ...more
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"Across multiple fronts of ideational battle, from the speeches of presidents to books of social and cultural theory, conceptions of human nature that in the post-World War II era had been thick with context, social circumstance, institutions, and history gave way to conceptions of human nature that stressed choice, agency, performance, and desire. Strong metaphors of society were supplanted by weaker ones. Imagined collectivities shrank; notions of structure and power thinned out. Viewed by its ...more
Joseph Stieb
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best book I read this term. Rodgers covers intellectual, political, and social history from the 1970's. His argument is the culmination of a lifetime of scholarship, which is reflected in his deep grasp of the zeitgeist of this time period. Rodgers characterizes this era as one of fracture and disaggregation in ideas and groups. Not only did Americans increasingly "bowl alone," but identities and conceptions of society and history that had long held sway started to fall away. Defini ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, usa, nonfiction
Intriguing volume of intellectual history of the United States in the late 20th century, with an intellectual move away from 'social' theories to more of 'market' or 'individual' based theories. It's not always the 'rightward turn' of neo-liberalism, but a de-emphasis of a single unified history, moving away from 'power' as a unified concept, the formation of identities, the turn away from structuralism, the relative perceived importance of microeconomics over macroeconomics.

Rodgers don't say t
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Somewhat disappointing, but a field must begin somewhere. The organizing theme (the "fracture") is the loss of aggregates and the individuation of social thought. Rodgers traces this through chapters on presidential rhetoric, economics, African-American thought, the women's movement, and political and social theory. The penultimate chapter describes new varieties of de-historicized thought – here originalist jurisprudence is uncomfortably paired with the rhetoric of post-communist reconstruction ...more
Geoffrey Rose
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Best book I've read on contemporary (post 1975) American political, cultural and intellectual history.

Rodgers's thesis is profound and provocative and has opened to my eyes to a new understanding of the fragmented age in which we're still living.

The chapter on Reagan's Cold War speeches is particularly noteworthy but the book is brilliant throughout.

I don't usually gush over a book but I wasn't able to put it down and several days later, I'm still tangling with the author's points.

Highly recomm
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
On the contradiction between free-market economy and "rent-seeking" voters: "To pass from the domain of economics to politics in the public-choice models was to pass from a market world in which self-interested behavior worked naturally for the good into a topsy-turvy world in which self-interest spawned endemic inefficiencies and capricious outcomes."

EJ Dionne recommended this book in the afterword to Why the Right Went Wrong and it was really good.
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book breaks down the shift in American political discourse from Reagan and argues that the social reaction to Cold War conformity was a divergence of ideas and ideologies. Rodgers uses language, economic policy, race relations and conceptions of history to explore this fracture and puts forth an interesting argument that, to the extent it is accurate, could really explain some of the segmentation and questionable truth of modern politics.
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
I LIVE IN A DIFFERENT country than the one into which I was born in 1942. I have never been quite able to pinpoint exactly what makes it so different. More than any other book I’ve read in recent years, Age of Fracture, by the Princeton historian Daniel T. Rodgers, has helped me to discover and to understand that difference. Read more...
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
An essential history of the final third of the 20th century, an exciting and ambitious work of historical scholarship. Some have criticized Rodgers for focusing too narrowly on the West, and the U.S. in particular, a point I concede, but the narrow focus allows him to explore the textures of this period in greater depth - had he broadened his analysis, the book would have become totally unwieldy. For Americanists, this is a must-read.
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A difficult intellectual history of America, 1975-2008. Very erudite, but so many books mentioned that it was a tough read without having read many of the books discussed. On the other hand, an excellent reference for some of the source material that may come in handy later on. I have to respect the scholarship here, but felt like I needed to be better read to fully understand the context.
I used this in our graduate historiography class in combination with Louis Menand's /The Metaphysical Club/. It provides an excellent overview of the intellectual developments that shape today's historical profession -- not to mention politics and other parts of academia. I would definitely assign it again.
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very readable intellectual history of the United States from the 1970s through the early 2000s. I pretty much spent seven years in grad school and read thousands and thousands of pages to cover what Rodgers does in 271 pages. Good introduction to a variety of thinkers and theoretical currents.

And it's actually made me want to re-read Rawls (I probably won't, though).
Explains a lot about what I experienced as a teenager who read the news and then later a college student being exposed to some of the echoes of the debates/streams of thought Rodgers discusses. If you want to know how we got from the U.S. of the 1950s to the U.S. of the 2000s, this is a great place to start.
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply amazing. Erudite, expansive intellectual history of late twentieth-century America, showing how the postwar consensus shattered into culture wars, fluid rhetoric, and intellectual uncertainty.
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wherein Dan Rodgers grooves on topics ranging from Foucault to Reagan, Phyllis Schlafly to Judith Butler. Not much more to the argument than the title of the book, but Rodgers has so many interesting things to say about so many topics that you don't even care.
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this book because the author is my son's advisor at Princeton. I found it an interesting read, full of disconcerting and thought-provoking truths about the changes wrought in the second half of the twentieth century.
Eric Michael Burke
Outstanding work of history. The best single characterization of an era's pervading intellectual character I've ever encountered.
Adam Gossman
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
painstaking contemporary history, drawing on several US Presidential Administrations and several decades of socio-economic and political thought. Very good read.
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“Whereas the structural trend toward increased inequality was gradual and went for a long time unobserved, the crises in the lives of the urban poor were public and dramatic. The new armies of the homeless that seemed suddenly to materialize in every major city in the early 1980s, sleeping in doorways, camped under elevated highways, spreading their temporary cardboard shelters over office tower heating grates, were a startling and disturbing sight. Not since the Depression had the least-advantaged Americans been so starkly visible to the rest.” 0 likes
“These battles of the political theory books and manifestoes did not occur in a vacuum, nor were they without tangible consequences. Their dominating background was the growing heterogeneity of American society in the last quarter of the century: its more diverse and more vocal subcultures, on the one hand, and its steadily growing economic inequalities on the other.” 0 likes
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