The American Myth of Success

From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale
Author: Richard Weiss
An insightful history of the American success myth
Paper – $23
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/1988
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About the Book

From the introduction:

"Tradition has it that every American child receives, as part of his birthright, the freedom to mold his own life. . . . However inaccurate as a description of American society, the success myth reflects what millions believe that society is or ought to be. The degree to which opportunity has or has not been available in our society is a subject for empirical investigation. It rests within the realm of verifiable fact. The belief that opportunity exists for all is a subject for intellectual analysis and rests within the realm of ideology. This latter dimension of the success myth is the primary focus of this book."

About the Author

Richard Weiss is professor emeritus of history at the University of California at Los Angeles and coeditor of The Great Fear: Race in the Mind of America.



"A rich and rewarding book, one that has stood up well under the test of time, and one that still provides readers with significant insights."--David Herbert Donald, author of Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe

"Weiss's incisive story of the success myth from its Puritan roots to the twentieth century is fascinating, provocative, and a delight to read."--Regina Markell Morantz-Sanchez, author of Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine

"The American Myth of Success helped revolutionize my understanding of what Marcus Garvey was saying. It offers what is still the finest, most nuanced reading of the role of the success ethic in American popular thought and culture."--Robert A. Hill, editor of The Marcus Garvey Papers

"An exceptionally perceptive history of the cult of striving and success in American culture written with great clarity, and with a keen sense of the social and intellectual currents of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries."--Joseph Boskin, author of Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester

"An elegant and deep exploration of secular and religious success literature. It is the best treatment of this theme that I have seen."--Frederic Cople Jaher, author of The Urban Establishment: Upper Strata in Boston, New York, Charleston, Chicago, and Los Angeles