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Remaking the Heartland:
Middle America since the 1950s
Robert Wuthnow

Honorable Mention for the 2011 PROSE Award in Sociology & Social Work, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2013 | $32.95 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691158020
376 pp. | 6 x 9 | 23 tables.
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For many Americans, the Midwest is a vast unknown. In Remaking the Heartland, Robert Wuthnow sets out to rectify this. He shows how the region has undergone extraordinary social transformations over the past half-century and proven itself surprisingly resilient in the face of such hardships as the Great Depression and the movement of residents to other parts of the country. He examines the heartland's reinvention throughout the decades and traces the social and economic factors that have helped it to survive and prosper.

Wuthnow points to the critical strength of the region's social institutions established between 1870 and 1950--the market towns, farmsteads, one-room schoolhouses, townships, rural cooperatives, and manufacturing centers that have adapted with the changing times. He focuses on farmers' struggles to recover from the Great Depression well into the 1950s, the cultural redefinition and modernization of the region's image that occurred during the 1950s and 1960s, the growth of secondary and higher education, the decline of small towns, the redeployment of agribusiness, and the rapid expansion of edge cities. Drawing his arguments from extensive interviews and evidence from the towns and counties of the Midwest, Wuthnow provides a unique perspective as both an objective observer and someone who grew up there.

Remaking the Heartland offers an accessible look at the humble yet strong foundations that have allowed the region to endure undiminished.


"Well-respected sociologist Wuthnow interweaves interviews, diaries and memoirs, and census data into a series of case studies to describe a region that is thriving in the new economy, primarily because of culture and institutions. . . . [Remaking the Heartland] is well-written, documented, and argued."--Choice

"Anyone interested in the economic development of the Midwest and a counterintuitive approach to the region's future should read Wuthnow's account, which can, once again, spur us to take the region's history seriously."--Jon Lauck, Omaha World-Herald

"[Remaking the Heartland] is a well-written, detailed, and persuasive account of change in the region."--J. L. Anderson, American Historical Review

"Wuthnow provides a much needed and refreshing look into the assumptions that Middle America, especially small-town Middle America, is dying or at worst already lost to modern, urban society."--Michelle Meyer Lueck, Rural Sociology

"The book is as much history as social science, and the writing flows seamlessly from personal observation to archival material, and from case studies to broad generalization. The total package is impressive: insights from some two hundred in-depth interviews supplemented by information from local newspapers, company reports, and an original content analysis of changing values via the Farm Journal magazine. Wuthnow is also a skilled writer who displays just the right blend of affection and detachment while leading readers through a nuanced story."--James R. Shortridge, Material Culture

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Table of Contents:

List of Tables vii
Preface ix
Introduction 1
Chapter One: Here in the Middle 7
Chapter Two: Recovering from the Great Depression 22
Chapter Three: Reinventing the Rustic Life 57
Chapter Four: Education in Middle America 92
Chapter Five: The Decline of Small Communities 126
Chapter Six: The Changing Face of Agribusiness 171
Chapter Seven: From Towns to Sprawling Suburbs 214
Afterword 254
Appendix 261
Notes 285
Selected Bibliography 335
Index 349

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