Against the Grain

The Politics of American Vitalism

The idea that we and the world around us vibrate with flows of energy has deep roots in North America. Historian Jackson Lears argues that vitalism or animism has played a crucial but contradictory role in U.S. politics and society. On the one hand, it has been fueled by capitalism and the almost magical function of money and credit, along with the vitalist imperial notion of regeneration through violence. And on the other, it has motivated those who see humans as part of a larger animated web of life, in need of protection and defense.


Jackson Lears, Animal Spirits: The American Pursuit of Vitality from Camp Meeting to Wall Street Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023


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