Return to Greatness by Alan Wolfe

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews



Has America, in its quest for goodness, sacrificed its sense of greatness? In this sharp-witted, historically informed book, veteran political observer Alan Wolfe argues that most Americans show greater concern with saving the country's soul than with making the nation great.

Wolfe castigates both conservatives and liberals for opting for small-mindedness over greatness. Liberals, who at their best insisted on policies of national solidarity, have convinced themselves that small is beautiful, prefer multiculturalism to one nation, and are mistrustful of executive political power. Conservatives, who once embraced strong, active central government and an ideal of national citizenship, now support huge tax cuts that undermine America's future ability to undertake any ambitious, long-term project at home or abroad.

No great society, in Wolfe's view, has ever been built on the cheap. Wolfe notes that neither the conservatives' call for small-scale faith-based initiatives nor the recent embrace on the left of a grassroots "civil society" can provide health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans or ensure national security in an age of terrorism.

To find better solutions, Wolfe looks back at specific moments in our national experience, when, in the face of sharp resistance, aspirations for the idea of national greatness shaped American history. He demonstrates how a bold and ambitious political agenda, championed at various times by Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, Abraham Lincoln, and the two Roosevelts, steered the country toward periods of national strength and unity.

Steeped in a colorful, panoramic reading of history, Return to Greatness offers a fresh take on American national identity and purpose. A call to action for a renewed embrace of the ideal of an activist federal government and bold policy agendas, it is sure to become a centerpiece of national debate.


About Alan Wolfe

See more books from this Author
Alan Wolfe is the director of the Boisi Center for Religion & American Public Life at Boston College, & author of the best-selling "One Nation After All".
Published February 9, 2009 by Princeton University Press. 256 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Return to Greatness

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

Exasperated by the current administration, Alan Wolfe lays out a plan for restoring the luster of American liberalism.

Apr 03 2005 | Read Full Review of Return to Greatness

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

In this timely contribution to the literature of American identity and public policy post-9/11, Wolfe (One Nation, After All ) argues that Americans both right an

Feb 07 2005 | Read Full Review of Return to Greatness

Rate this book!

Add Review