What Is America?

A Short History of the New World Order

Publisher: Vintage Canada
From the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of A Short History of Progress comes another surprising, frightening and essential book.

The USA is now the world’s lone superpower, whose deeds could make or break this century. For better and worse, America has Americanized the world. How did a marginal frontier society, in a mere two centuries, become the de facto ruler of the world? Why do America’s great achievements in democracy, prosperity and civil rights now seem threatened by forces within itself?

Brimming with insight into history and human behaviour, and written in Wright’s captivating style, What Is America? shows how this came to pass; how the United States, which regards itself as the most modern country on earth, is also deeply archaic, a stronghold not only of religious fundamentalism but of “modern” beliefs in limitless progress and a universal mission that have fallen under suspicion elsewhere in the west, a rethinking driven by two World Wars and the reckless looting of our planet.

A fresh, passionate look at the past and future of the world’s most powerful nation, What Is America? will reframe the debate about our neighbour and ourselves.

From the Hardcover edition.


Author’s Foreword

What then is the American, this new man?
–Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, ca. 17761

Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?
–Jack Kerouac, 19572

The argument at the heart of this book – that the New World made the modern world and...
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The Walrus

“A broad synthesis buoyed by its compact, fluid prose, this account is also noteworthy for its extensive footnotes, which document but also invite readers to delve deeper.”

“Provocative, well-argued and raises important questions.”
The Globe and Mail

“A devastating and brilliant critique.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Eloquently impertinent and persuasive”
Toronto Star

“Wright’s contribution feels like a voice added to a gathering zeitgeist, an accounting of past mistakes and transgressions that allows room for the possibility of better days ahead.”
The Gazette

From the Hardcover edition.