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Extra resources for Consumer Reports: New Car Ratings & Reviews 2014 (December 2013)

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52 Like the worldhistorical concept of possessive individualism itself, the significance of the declension narrative of sovereign selfhood depended not on its historical verifiability but on its capacity to evoke a utopian vision, or register its impossibility. I am less interested in whether or not Taylorization actually effected such a diminution of republican selfhood and masculine prerogative (and with them national distinction) than in the proliferation of its primal scene as cultural text—as, to paraphrase Clifford Geertz, a story we tell ourselves about ourselves.

The next year, the philosopher Thomas Whittaker began an over24 | chapter one view of current American political economy by asserting the “theoretical and practical . . 37 Like the individualists, subscribers to this new view of self-formation found corroboration in Darwinian evolutionary theory, specifically the claim that the form and fate of an organism are shaped by its immediate environment. Although pragmatists rejected individualism’s axiomatic claim of the primacy of individual subjectivity, they preserved in their prescriptive analyses the liberal emphasis on the human capacity for freedom.

If the spaces of work no longer made “individuals” in the archaic sense, modernity offered a wealth of opportunities for the fashioning and performance of something like a sovereign self: independence could be reclaimed in practices that evoked the hardship and “ruggedness” of the pioneer past; and autonomy could be retrieved through acts of consumption. expressive individualism and consumer culture American Individualism thus participated in a many-named process described by historians, social scientists, philosophers, and literary artists over the past hundred years; that is, the transition from a nineteenth-century “mode of subjection” preoccupied with the hewing of “character” to those based in the elaboration of “personality”—from “self-determination” to “fulfillment”; from “salvation” to “self-realization”; from “inner-directed” to “other-directed” patterns of “social character”; or from “utilitarian” or “economic” to “expressive” individualism.

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Consumer Reports: New Car Ratings & Reviews 2014 (December 2013)

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