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Overcoming America / America Overcoming

Can We Survive Modernity?

Stephen C. Rowe

In Overcoming America / America Overcoming, Stephen Rowe shows how the moral disease and political paralysis that plague America are symptomatic of the fact that America herself has been overtaken by the modern values which she exported to the rest of the world. He points to a way out of this current and potentially fatal malaise: join other societies which are also struggling to move beyond the modern and consciously reappropriate those elements of tradition which have to do with cultivation of the mature human being. To avoid fundamentalism, Rowe discusses how this reappropriation must be undertaken in dialogue with those who also have come to recognize the unsustainable quality of the modern lifeway, and who have been able to live beyond the nihilistic wish to tear it down. This book supports the call for an emerging global ethic and spirituality, providing resources of articulation and interpretation that allow for an ongoing dialogue between traditional and modern values—both worthy and problematic in their own ways—through which reliable policy and healthy living become possible. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 224
978-0-7391-7140-0 • Hardback • November 2011 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
978-0-7391-8316-8 • Paperback • March 2013 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-0-7391-7141-7 • eBook • November 2011 • $37.99 • (£24.95)
Stephen Rowe is a professor at Grand Valley State University.
Foreword: Martin E. Marty
Part I America and the Problem of Modernity
Chapter 1: Worldview, Choice, and Dialogue
Chapter 2 Ideologues, Nihilists, and the Depressed — and Relationalists
Chapter 3 Moral Disease and Nothingness:
Chapter 4 Nothingness and Gift: Eleven Glimpses
Part II Relational Worldview
Chapter 5 Reappropriating Tradition
Chapter 6 Dialogue as Democratic Possibility: Reappropriating the Modern
Chapter 7 What We Can Learn From/With China
Chapter 8 Dialogue, Development, and Pluralism
Part III Reviving Civic Virtue
Chapter 9 A Liberal Confession
Chapter 10 American Clash and Revival
Chapter 11 Pragmatism Revisited
Chapter 12 Democratic Life, American Hope: A Meditation on/from the Practical Turn
Chapter 13 Liberal Education as Democratic Practice
Conclusion: Democracy Somewhere
Stephen Rowe is my favorite commentator on American culture, doing so with great nuance. In Overcoming America he has sought the deepest level of the malaise gripping our nation and found it in the dominant “worldview.” The book arises from the richness of Rowe’s own dialogical life-experience, especially with American liberal education and the revival of traditional Chinese culture.
John B. Cobb Jr., author of Spiritual Bankruptcy: A Prophetic Call to Action

Stephen Rowe launches a powerful argument for the need to aufheben (“negate-and-uplift”) the modern and to construct a relational America. Engaging and refreshing. An excellent example of how comparative philosophy is relevant to the real world.
Chenyang Li, author of The Tao Encounters the West: Explorations in Comparative Philosophy

In this intriguing new book, Stephen Rowe exemplifies the key democratic, educational, moral arts he invites us to understand, to value, to practice. Honestly, caringly, respectfully he invites us to think with him as he lays out the complex weave of analysis, understanding, and hopeful prescriptions on which he has worked for many years. It is a rich conversation we enter, then, with a thinking friend who cares a great deal about our troubled, troubling world. It is also a call to action, but, crucially, Rowe believes that, if we do not also and always keep working on understanding rightly, and truly with equal others, our best-intentioned actions can perpetuate the very harms we want to remedy.
Elizabeth Minnich, professor, Queens University (moral philosophy); author, “Transforming Knowledge”

This book should go far to establish Rowe as the contemporary American social critic who has inherited the mantle of Christopher Lasch. Rowe continues Lasch's trenchant observations of the sickness of our times, sounds the prophetic call to conversion for the sake of the true American promise, and carries the reader forward with strong, clear, well chosen words and convincing argument. The text reads as if it were spoken onto the page and the reader hears it as much as sees it. Rowe has created a style of writing most fitting for our “post-traditional” era, and a message which, as he confesses in the book’s first sentence, is “urgent, large, and a bit wild.” And also intimate, engaged, conversational, reflective, personal, anecdotal. Rowe brings his first-hand experience with inter-cultural dialogue, and in depth knowledge of Chinese culture, as well as his life-long devotion to liberal education as a way for citizens in a democracy to grow morally and spiritually together, to the contemporary public conversation he so celebrates and augments in this book.
J. Ronald Engel, Meadville/Lombard Theological School

A wake-up call—and just in time! At the book's publication, the upper echelons of American society are wallowing to an alarming degree in the wasteland of unlimited greed, power-lust, pleasure-seeking, and corruption - all this in complete disregard of the deeper wellsprings that have animated America's original vision of ‘liberty and justice for all’. This is a ‘postmodern’ book in the best sense: one that does not simply reject modernity but rather rescues modernity-gone-astray, thus paving the way to recovery. Stephen Rowe is an admirably lucid and courageous writer sounding this wake-up call—not by imposing moralistic formulas from above, but by encouraging a renewed cultivation of civic virtues through mutual openness and dialogical engagement.
Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame

Recommended for the panoramic vision holding this very substantive work together, its faithfulness to the pragmatic vision of democracy, and its responsiveness to dialogue with non-Western traditions.
Sor-hoon Tan, National University of Singapore, and author of Confucian Democracy: A Deweyan Reconstruction

Overcoming America represents a pioneering vision of the lineaments of the new map of eternal America as it struggles to stay America—with all the hope for the world which that entails—while the world changes within and around us.
Jacob Needleman, author of What Is God? and The American Soul