The New Founding Hagiography and Its Enemies
by Tom Cutterham

In 2002, David McCullough’s life of John Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. The year before, Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers had won it for History. Books on Adams were nothing new, but never before had he and his “founding brothers” experienced quite such wide and uncritical admiration in the mainstream of American popular culture. John Adams carried the flag for a resurgent public and publishing interest in the Founding Fathers.

It’s no coincidence that it did so in the same year that neoconservative and neoliberal ideologies coalesced in the presidency of George W. Bush. The new Founding hagiography, which McCullough perfected, performs a particular function within that ideological matrix. In its celebration of exceptional genius and leadership, the like of which can never be found again, mainstream literature on the Founding Fathers alienates its readers from the possibility of creative political action. The compromises and strategic decisions of eighteenth-century politicians, and the rhetoric in which they couched them, become the definitive articles of a popular faith, the Founders themselves its unassailable prophets and scribes.

If neoliberalism demands that democratic governance over domestic communities, in the form of the state, should diminish in favour of market and corporate organisation; and if neoconservatism demands that the non-democratic, military and security apparatus of the state should expand to the point of possessing total potential control; then this kind of historical writing, perhaps better than any other discourse, can fulfil both aims simultaneously within the bounds of their distinct aesthetics.

Read more.

Post comment

Forbidden Bookshelf

Forbidden Bookshelf

“While We Were Sleeping”

While We Were Sleeping is an urgent call to save Greenwich Village from New York University's uncontrolled expansion.

Click here to donate to NYUFASP and receive a copy of "While We Were Sleeping: NYU and the Destruction of New York" (minimum donation to receive a book is $10 plus $8 shipping).

Orwell Rolls In His Grave, featuring MCM – Buy the DVD

About News From Underground

News From Underground is a daily e-news service run by Mark Crispin Miller, a Professor of Culture and Communication at NYU. It is based on his belief that academics, like reporters, have a civic obligation to help keep the people well-informed, so that American democracy might finally work.

If you'd like to receive updates delivered to your inbox daily, sign up for News From Underground Alerts:

Help News From Underground!

Message from Mark: "I am a one-man operation, although assisted greatly by some volunteers, and, now and then, by people paid by others for one-time projects. There is no shortage of skilled, dedicated folks out there who want to help me. There is, however, nothing I can pay them with, unless you decide you can contribute something."

Please donate via the PayPal button above or via PayPal by email to:

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Popular Posts


Need a bigger font size?

Sponsored Links

  • Your link could be here too, contact us for pricing details.