Change, Awakenings, and War: Paul Ewing’s Grand Theory of American History [short course]

Change, Awakenings and War: Paul Ewing’s Grand Theory of American History

[the short course]

                                          © Paul Ewing 2013

  • If we look at the whole of American history, a distinct pattern emerges. Times of rapid socioeconomic change lead to psychological disturbance in the population.
  • Negative emotions of fear, insecurity, envy, rage, anomie and alienation prevail. Such feelings jump-start  Christian evangelical  revival movements: the First, Second and Third Great Awakenings.
  • These  movements promise, falsely, a return to the status quo, yet offer some relief from angst through religious practice.
  • Paradoxically, the “Awakenings” stir up further trouble in political, social, and cultural realms. Evangelicals who believe they have a personal relationship with God feel empowered.
  • Their empowerment feeds into growing political and social activism, and vice versa. Political and social activism of the “born-again” accelerates either in government or in grass roots movements.
  • Political conflicts, social upheaval, Revolution, Civil War are likely outcomes.

The following three periods are illustrative of Ewing’s Grand Theory:

1. Stage One: Early 18th Century:

a. First Industrial Revolution,

b. First Great Awakening,

c. Intensified colonial political activity

d. Culture wars: Loyalists vs. Patriots

e. American Revolution in 1776.

2. Stage Two: Early 19th Century

a.  Second industrial revolution

b. Second Great Awakening,

c. Explosion of social reform movements including Abolitionism

d. Culture Wars: Abolitionists and Republicans vs. slaveholders

e. The American Civil War in 1861

3. Stage Three: Late 20th Century

a. End of the Industrial Revolutions and Dawn of information age

b. Third Great Awakening (Ewing was one of the first to call it that)

c. Family Values movement, the 700 Club, Tea Party (irony abounds)

d. Culture Wars:  Liberals versus Conservatives

e. 2013 Constitutional Crisis; Government shut down by radical minority of evangelicals and Tea Party.


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