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Born Losers - A History of Failure in America (Hardcover) Loot Price: R661 Discovery Miles 6 610
Born Losers - A History of Failure in America (Hardcover): Scott A. Sandage
Born Losers - A History of Failure in America (Hardcover): Scott A. Sandage

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Born Losers - A History of Failure in America (Hardcover)

Scott A. Sandage

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Loot Price R661 Discovery Miles 6 610

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A book about failure? In America? Sandage (History/Carnegie Mellon) presents a darker side of the American Dream, complete with case studies and ephemera. He carefully considers the 19th-century's "go-ahead" US, which saw the rise of the businessman's vocation, and presents a stark portrayal of our national habit of speaking grandly while falling short of all the grand talk. It was a time of speculators, flunkies, and humbugs. Ben Franklin's maxims were popular. P.T. Barnum's bunkum was effulgent. Proclaiming self-reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson found the cause of a man's failure lay within himself. To track the financially feckless and to inform suppliers of credit risks, ubiquitous mercantile reporting agencies, like Mr. Dun and Mr. Bradstreet's, flourished, though they often provided misinformation as a coup de grace to a struggling tradesman. Keeping book on good-for-nothing losers started with local reporters (young Abraham Lincoln was said to be one). And so ledgers recorded the sorry handiwork of self-made men. Some strivers who once raised themselves by their own bootstraps but were finally without a shoestring resorted to new federal bankruptcy legislation that was designed to relieve legal debt, not necessarily the moral kind. Others wrote begging letters to titans of the Gilded Age. (The Rockefellers, among others, kept their pleaders' correspondence filed away for history.) The stories of the gaunt, ragged wraiths pictured in the garish chromolithographs of the day are brought to life here in mournful numbers. Taking us to the present, Sandage summons the tragic figure of Willy Loman, Arthur Miller's dead salesman, who somehow prepared a place for those who lost the rat race in our culture. There's "something of a market niche" for losers, the author finds, especially in pop music. Whether that niche contains many readers standing by for a straightforward study that hangs with left-behinds of the 1800s is an open question. An earnest entry in an emerging academic discipline, but a dreary topic for recreational reading. (Kirkus Reviews)
What makes somebody a Loser, a person doomed to unfulfilled dreams and humiliation? Nobody is born to lose, and yet failure embodies our worst fears. The Loser is our national bogeyman, and his history over the past two hundred years reveals the dark side of success, how economic striving reshaped the self and soul of America.

From colonial days to the Columbine tragedy, Scott Sandage explores how failure evolved from a business loss into a personality deficit, from a career setback to a gauge of our self-worth. From hundreds of private diaries, family letters, business records, and even early credit reports, Sandage reconstructs the dramas of real-life Willy Lomans. He unearths their confessions and denials, foolish hopes and lost faith, sticking places and changing times. Dreamers, suckers, and nobodies come to life in the major scenes of American history, like the Civil War and the approach of big business, showing how the national quest for success remade the individual ordeal of failure.

"Born Losers" is a pioneering work of American cultural history, which connects everyday attitudes and anxieties about failure to lofty ideals of individualism and salesmanship of self. Sandage's storytelling will resonate with all of us as it brings to life forgotten men and women who wrestled with The Loser--the label and the experience--in the days when American capitalism was building a nation of winners.


Imprint: Harvard University Press
Country of origin: United States
Release date: February 2005
First published: 2005
Authors: Scott A. Sandage
Dimensions: 217 x 148 x 29mm (L x W x T)
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 352
ISBN-13: 978-0-674-01510-4
Barcode: 9780674015104
Categories: Books > Humanities > History > History of specific subjects > Social & cultural history
Books > History > History of specific subjects > Social & cultural history
Books > Humanities > History > History of specific subjects > Economic history
Books > History > History of specific subjects > Economic history
LSN: 0-674-01510-X

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