THE BEER CAN BY THE HIGHWAY Essays on What is ""American"" about America by John A. Kouwenhoven
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THE BEER CAN BY THE HIGHWAY Essays on What is ""American"" about America

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Is ours, asks Kouwenhoven, ""a society whose values are primarily shaped by science and technology?"" And, he answers himself: ""To the extent that it is so, it is something new under the sun, and makes unprecedented demands upon those who do its work, direct its dynamic forces, and give artistic expression to its aspirations and doubts."" The Can by the Highway is a series of ten essays evolved from speeches, lectures, and magazine articles by a Columbia University professor who takes seriously the threat to civilization typified by ""the degree to which criticism of the arts is replacing the arts themselves as a source of artistic inspiration"". He upholds the Emersonian ideal of ""original perception and original action"" through which a society may make the best of itself and its attributes. He provides a superlative comparison between Coleridge's dichotomy of mechanic and organic and his own preferred concept of the ""dynamic tensions between and cultivated influences"". He exhorts his countrymen to apply more realistic principles to education: ""No society, least of all an industrial one, can master its enemies or itself -- if it depends for leadership on men and women who are lopsidedly trained"". This collection represents a refreshing antidote to all the cries for a sense of national meaning or a target of national unity. The theme here is ""America, take thyself at face value"", and the emphasis is on process as an acceptable way of life. No book of this kind is ever conclusive, of course -- precisely because its very subject is a process -- but Kouwenhoven is sensible in offering the doctrine that the new democratic goose must certainty have come before the golden eggs of technological abundance and the profligacy that has been a recurring national despair.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1961
Publisher: Doubleday