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Can you keep endlessly expanding? A century of selling America to ourselves.

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In the first decades in which the term was used, it was consistently used to talk about social justice, to talk about democracy, to talk about equality of opportunity. Those were 'the American Dream.' And the American Dream wasn't about getting rich. In fact, in some of the earliest examples I found of the phrase, there was concern that this new phenomenon of multi-millionaires... would be the death of the American Dream.

Historian Sarah Churchwell explores a century of American ideology through two slogans - the narrowing of "American dream" from its egalitarian aspiration into a motto of personal accumulation, and the deeply authoritarian, exclusionary ends of America First ideology that stretch throughout America's past, and into the present.

Sarah is author of Behold, America: The Entangled History of "America First" and "the American Dream" from Basic Books.

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Sarah Churchwell

Sarah Churchwell is professor of American literature and public understanding of the humanities at the University of London.

 

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