The Rise of the Imperial Self
The book establishes a genealogy of aristocracy and places America firmly within an aristocratic tradition originally articulated by St. Augustine but adapted to American society by Alexis de Tocqueville. Ronald W. Dworkin then traces the evolution of American culture from Tocqueville America, when American aristocracy was defined by a love of something beyond the self, to today’s preoccupation with individuality, self-expression, autonomy, and self-esteem—‘the imperial self.’
Analyzing contemporary American ‘culture wars’ from an Augustinian perspective, Dworkin demonstrates why today’s cultural debates bear a remarkable resemblance to Augustine’s ideological struggles against the Manicheans, Platonists, Donatists, Pelagians, Stoics, and pagan aristocrats of late antiquity. Dworkin persuasively argues that despite popular belief, the rise of the imperial self came not during the rebellious 1960s, but with the ‘organization man’ of the conservative 1950s. This book will be compelling reading for any person seeking to put today’s contentious cultural debates into historical and philosophical perspective.