A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II

Linda Sargent Wood

Research output: Book/ReportBook

23 Scopus citations


This book uncovers a strong holistic impulse in post-World War II American culture that both challenged the logic of the Cold War and fed some of the twentieth century's most powerful social movements, from civil rights to the counterculture to environmentalism. The study examines important leaders and institutions that embraced and put into practice a holistic vision for a peaceful, healthful, and just world: nature writer Rachel Carson; structural engineer R. Buckminster Fuller; civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.; humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow; Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; and the Esalen Institute. Though holism was not new to this era, this particular holistic milieu was markedly communitarian and often utopian. Postwar holists focused on connections, interdependencies, and integration to create a better world. They offered an ethical framework built on models of cooperation rather than conflict, seeing human beings as intrinsically valuable rather than instrumental cogs in the system. This cooperative ethic helped drive social reform, changed the ways individuals understood themselves and their environment, guided plans for building a harmonious global community, and knit science and religion together. In the 1960s and 1970s, holistic conceptions and practices infused the March on Washington, "Earth Day," the human potential movement, New Age spirituality, and alternative medicine. Though dreams of creating a more perfect world were tempered by economic inequality, political corruption, and deep social divisions, this worldview influenced American culture in important ways that continue into the twenty-first century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages368
ISBN (Electronic)9780199869404
ISBN (Print)9780195377743
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


  • 1960s
  • American culture
  • Civil rights
  • Communitarian
  • Counterculture
  • Environmentalism
  • Holism
  • Human potential movement
  • Social movements
  • Spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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