Individualism   /   Spring 2002   /    Articles

Reflections on Sheilaism

Joshua Foa Dienstag

BEHIND THE SEEMINGLY ROBUST DIVERSITY OF OUR social, political, and religious institutions, American culture suffers from a bad case of mono. That is the argument Professor Bellah presents us with in “The Protestant Structure of American Culture.” In his view, the variety of experiences and subcultures on offer in most of our cities and towns is, in some sense, a façade. Hidden beneath the myriad of colors, creeds, ethnicities, languages, and social practices, there lurks a continuous individualism that is the common (and dominant) cultural inheritance of all Americans from the tiny bands of radical Protestants who first settled the New England shoreline.

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