America 3.0 is the name I give to the contemporary age - the third age of the American nation. I hold that the history of the United States can be understood to divide into three ages each of which is marked by two qualities. First, each of these ages is qualitatively and quantitatively different from the other and these differences can be observed in the historical record, analyzed and critiqued. Second, each of these ages, while revealing significant differences one from the other, still occur within a sociocultural matrix that is American (and I define this American sociocultural matrix as existing as early as the first generation of European settlement in England's colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America.). What interests me in this blog is not America 1.0 (the colonial period through the founding of the nation until the industrialization of the eastern cities, roughly 1815) or America 2.0 (America in the industrial age, roughly 1815 through the early 1970s) but the contemporary age, which I am defining as showing evidence of manifestation as early as the 1950s but which is certainly emerging in the 1970s. This is the age we live in now - demonstrably American and radically, fundamentally different from the America of 40 years ago. This blog will explore the character of the contemporary age by investigating critical questions in contemporary American society, culture and politics.
If the history of the United States between 1815 and 1875 (that period when America 1.0 gave way to America 2.0) offers any wisdom, the transition between America 2.0 and America 3.0 is likely to be turbulent, difficult, generational in duration and marked by schism, anger, instability, disequilibrium and anxiety. I will firmly embed much of this blog in the Braudelian tradition of the Annales School of historical thought and inquiry. In "A History of Civilizations," Braudel posits that historians work in three time frames. The first, the "A" frame, is that of narrative history - the trees, rather than the forest. The "B" frame is that of "events of long duration" (Braudel, 34), where historical events are seen as interacting with each other in ways much like I described above. While it is in this frame that I will spend the majority of my effort, there is an additional "C" frame. This is the frame that goes beyond the day-to-day or even the decade-by-decade, in describing it, Braudel writes: "on this scale, the French Revolution is no more than a moment, however essential, in the long history of the revolutionary, liberal and violent destiny of the West" (Braudel, 34). While I am most interested in the "B" frame as an historian, the "A" and "C" have virtues as well. - I don't plan to limit myself to one or the other. I will close by citing Braudel citing Foucault regarding the nature of civilizations. Foucalt writes: "One might trace the history of the limits, of those obscure actions, necessarily forgotten as soon as they are performed, whereby a civilization casts aside something it regards as alien. Throughout its history, this moat which it digs around itself, this no man's land by which it preserves its isolation, is just as characteristic as its positive values. For it receives and maintains its values as continuous features of its history; but in the area which we have chosen to discuss it makes its essential choice, the selection - which gives it its positive nature - the essential substance of which it is made" (Braudel, citing Foucault, 31). In studying the transition of the past 40 years and the emergence of America 3.0, I hope we will regularly consider the limits we have imposed on ourselves as a people in the past and consider the limits that our contemporary decisions impose or lift.