Document Type


Date of Award



United States, Intellectual life

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

James P. Young

Second Advisor

Edwin Rutkowski

Third Advisor

Edward Weisband


This thesis originated out of a desire to utilize some of the basic insights of the Frankfurt school in order to analyze the significance and meaning of the structural dynamics of the American past. In doing this, I have attempted to provide some of the basic categories of Critical Theory with a concrete historical content, and I have sought to demonstrate the absolute necessity of including these categories in any historical investigation that seeks to convey the ultimate meaning of the history that it studies.

The thesis itself is divided into two parts. In part One, I present what might be described as a preface to a philosophy of historical movement. Here, I attempt to demonstrate the following: (1) History is nothing less than the self-generation and objectification of the human species through time, nature, and world. (2) History, as a manifestation of human freedom, is the species-defining characteristic of the human being. (3) The self-generation and objectification that is characteristic of history is activated and continuously dependent upon the experiential dialectic of the universal and the particular. (4) The human perception of the relationship between the universal and the particular is of paramount importance in determining the limitations and potentialities of historical movement at any given point in time. (5) The requirements of biological necessity and of any given economic system in general are also important factors that limit the boundaries of possible historical movement, but these factors, in terms of questions of qualitative importance, are less significant than is the culturally dominant perception of the relationship between the universal and the particular. (6) The teleological end of the historical process is the self realization of history itself (freedom), and (7) given the possibility and the historical reality of the distortion of human perception, and given the capacity of human beings to link themselves to humanly created structures of causality, there is no necessity that this goal be achieved. Part One also concerns itself with the relationship between historical writing and history and with the reasons why the ultimate reality of history as freedom has not been able to manifest itself as the dominant characteristic of the human experience.

Part II of this thesis applies the theoretical formulations of Part I to an analysis of the historical unfolding of contemporary America. Specific considerations include: (1) An analysis of the relationship that has existed between American historical writing and the structures of American historical consciousness. (2) An investigation of the historical transformations of American consciousness that have now culminated in the near-total eradication of the dialogue between the universal and the particular. (3) An examination of the material factors that have both reflected and contributed to the changes of consciousness that are indicated above.