New Places, Names, and Selves

in Restless Nation

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2000 | ISBN: 9780226394787
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226394732 | DOI:
New Places, Names, and Selves

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Americans need a place to construct their dreams, and since their dreams usually involve material wealth, it helps if the place has plentiful resources. The land and its wealth have served this purpose well through most of American history, at least until the decisive urbanization of the twentieth century. But the dream is more important than the place, which is only a means for realizing the dream. The young men who have been the primary migrants—internationally and domestically—have seen their surroundings as a way to get rich, not as a habitat with any value of its own. The trees are there to be burned or sawed down, the gold or oil to be extracted, the soil to be plowed up. Americans do not expect to stay long in any one place, so it is important to take “what you can as fast as you can.” After all, America is a big boomtown, and no one wants to stay very long in a boomtown.

Keywords: material wealth; American dream; resources; urbanization; boomtown; migrant population

Chapter.  15232 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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