Review: American Nations – A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Congress (Failure, Reform), Culture, Research, Democracy, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), History
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Colin Woodard

5.0 out of 5 stars Nine Nations Was a Snap-Shot — This Is Deep History & Ends Thoughtfully, February 16, 2014

I bought this book prepared to dislike it, having given a rave review to Joel Garreau's The Nine Nations of North America. Let me settle that one immediately. I loved this book. As the author himself points out early on, Garreau's book was a snap-shot, this book is a deep history. I was also quite taken, at the end of the book, with the author's acknowledgements that begin with Garreau and go on to others such as Wilbur Zelinsky's The Cultural Geography of The United States: A Revised Edition and Raymond Gastil's Cultural regions of the United States.

Although I would have liked some illustrations and maps in relation to each section of the book — there is only one map for the entire book — I found the book riveting, and would like to see it become a standard text for multi-disciplinary education across history, political science, sociology, and cultural studies.

I was immediately engaged and inspired by the author's candor — secession is an early theme in this book, as well as concluding theme. For my multiple reviews of books on sessession, search for Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Self-Determination & Secession, where each review leads back to its Amazon page. On a negative note, the author is completely wrong in stating that the South dragged the North into a Civil War. It was the North that refused to honor the legitimate demand of the South for secession, and the North that was focused on waging war to loot the South without regard to the human cost on both sides.

The author very ably summarizes the core differences among the eleven regions in his introductory chapter, and I list my notes here for my own use as well as for others (I no longer retain books once I have read them, I pass them on).

YANKEES. Based on radical Calvinists, have faith in government as a means of achieving greater good of community, individual self-denial valued, a middle class ethos, and a culture of battling gasping elites.

NEW NETHERLANDS. Global commercial trading society with tolerance for diversity and commitment to freedom of inquiry.

MIDLANDS. English Quakers, pluralistic, middle class, government not welcome, moderate to apathetic in political terms, but a swing region.

TIDEWATER. Conservative, respect for authority, aristocrats and slaves, in decline.

GREATER APPALACHIA. Lower class clans from Ireland and Scotland and England, warrior ethic, deep commitment to individual liberty.

DEEP SOUTH. Slave lords, white supremacy, aristocratic privilege, apartheid, authoritarianism, racial segregation, environmental deregulation.

NEW FRANCE. French peasantry plus native Americans, down to earth, eagalitarian, consensus-driven.

EL NORTE. 16th Century Spanish roots, hybrid Anglo-Spanish, two peoples, increasingly influencial on rest of USA.

LEFT COAST. Progressive, merchants, missionaries, woodsmen, then parmers, prospectors, and fur traders. Imported New England intellectualism and idealism. Culture of individual fulfillment. Faith in good government and social reform. Commitment to individual discovery. Perhaps the most likely to secede.

FAR WEST. Corporate state, internal colony, dependent on corporations and federal grants to subsist.

FIRST NATION. Vast region still occupied by indigenous who did not give up any rights in any treaties. Coherent and sustainable.

Each of the above receives coverage in four sections covering 1590-1769, 1770-1815, 1816-1877, and 1878-2010. This book is historical, but it is also deeply relevant to understanding how screwed up the USA is today. It's not just crooked politicians, it is a wild mix of wildly incompatible cultural zealots.

In concluding the book the author draws our attention to three political confederations within the US federation: an EU style mix of northern states; a unitary bible region; and a post modernist semi-sovereign diaspora of villages ignoring the US government and achieving resilience on their own.

He also highlight the three sucking chest wounds we in the USA are all suffering: an over-extended empire burdened by enormous elective debt; religious extremists; and financial corruption (on the latter, Matt Taibbi's book, Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History remains the best effort to date).

The author finds Canada and Mexico as fractured as the USA; warns that the Constitution could be suspended and the Republic destroyed; and that alternatively, the federation could be neutered.

The biggest surprise to me was to learn that the FIRST NATION is the largest — larger than continental USA — with only 300,000 inhabitants, highly communalistic, and likely to outlast us all.

A couple of concluding quotes:

QUOTE (318): But one thing is certain: if Americans seriously want the United States to continue to exist in something like its current form, they had best respect the fundamental tenets of our unlikely union. It cannot survive if we end the separation of church and state or institute the Baptist equivalent of Sharia law.

QUOTE (319): Most tribal land is owned in common under a form of title that prevents it from ever being sold to an individual or exploited in such a way that diminishes its value to future generations.

QUOTE (322): Communalistic, environmentally minded, and female-dominated, the people of First Nation will have a very different approach to the global challenges of the twenty-first century from that of the other nations of the continent and the world.

This is a deep and thoughtful book. I am distressed as I put it down, recognizing that a significant number of US citizens have been dumbed down and drugged up, at the same time that a two-party tyranny has so corrupted governance and so enabled Wall Street financial criminals, as to cause any loyal citizen to wonder if the time has come to abolish this government in order to save the Constitution. I trace our downfall to two events: the assassination of JFK and the cover-up led by LBJ — no president since then has actually “been” president; and the destruction by Newt Gingrich of the last semblance of bi-partisanship in the US legislature. The two books below, among others support my view that the US Government — all three branches — no longer represent We the People.

JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters
The Ambition and the Power: The Fall of Jim Wright : A True Story of Washington

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