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Ours Was the Shining Future: The Story of the American Dream (Hardcover)

Ours Was the Shining Future: The Story of the American Dream By David Leonhardt Cover Image
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The clear-eyed, definitive history of the modern American economy and the decline of the American Dream, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist behind The New York Times's “The Morning” newsletter.

“With the even-handed incisiveness that has made him one of the country’s most-respected voices on economics, David Leonhardt illuminates the inside history of the players and missteps that have stolen so many Americans’ futures.”—Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money


Two decades into the twenty-first century, the stagnation of living standards has become the defining trend of American life. Life expectancy has declined, economic inequality has soared, and, after some progress, the Black-white wage gap is once again as large as it was in the 1950s. How did this happen in the world’s most powerful country? And what happened to the “American dream”—the promise of a happier, healthier, more prosperous future—which was once such an inextricable part of our national identity?

Drawing on decades of writing about the economy for The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer David Leonhardt examines the past century of American history, from the Great Depression to today’s Great Stagnation, in search of an answer.

To make sense of the rise and subsequent fall of the American dream, Leonhardt tells the story of the modern American economy as an ongoing battle between two competing forms of capitalism: one that envisions prosperity for most, and one that serves the individual and favors the wealthy. In vivid prose, Ours Was the Shining Future traces how democratic capitalism flourished to make the American dream possible, until the latter decades of the twentieth century when, bit by bit, the dream was corrupted to serve only the privileged few.

Ours Was the Shining Future is a sweeping narrative full of innovation and grit, human drama and hope. Featuring the trailblazing figures who helped shape the American dream—Frances Perkins, Paul Hoffman, Cesar Chavez, Robert Kennedy, A. Philip Randolph, Grace Hopper, and more—this engaging history reveals the power of grassroots democratic movements from across the political spectrum. And though the American dream feels lost to us now, Leonhardt shows how Americans—if they commit themselves to transforming the economy, as they did in the past—have the power to revive the dream once more.

About the Author

David Leonhardt is a senior writer at The New York Times, where he writes its flagship newsletter, “The Morning.” He has also been the newspaper’s Washington bureau chief, an op-ed columnist, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, and the founding editor of “The Upshot.” He has won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. This is his first book.

Praise For…

“In recent years, the poison of despair has spread through our body politic. David Leonhardt’s sweeping tale of grassroots leaders who changed America offers an antidote. America can change, because America did change. This book is an anti-funk tonic that will inspire you to stop shaking your fists and start rolling up your sleeves.”—Anand Giridharadas, author of The Persuaders

“With the even-handed incisiveness that has made him one of the country’s most-respected voices on economics, David Leonhardt illuminates the inside history of the players and missteps that have stolen so many Americans’ futures. Ours Was the Shining Future is both a cause for outrage and a plea for hope.”—Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money

“In a fearless, trenchant diagnosis, David Leonhardt shows how Republicans and Democrats alike are complicit in the decline of the American dream. This important book shows how a renewed commitment to public investment, collective bargaining, sensible immigration policies, and civic activism can invigorate our economy and rejuvenate our democracy.”—Michael J. Sandel, author of Democracy’s Discontent

“David Leonhardt’s engaging narrative illuminates the complex social, economic, and political forces that have made the American dream seem a mirage, even as he charts a possible way out. This is necessary reading.”—Drew Gilpin Faust, Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor and President Emerita, Harvard University

“In this insightful and thought-provoking book, David Leonhardt examines the most important social issue of our era.”—Walter Isaacson, author of The Code Breaker

“A sweeping and brilliant view of how the American dream of upward mobility faded over the past half century and what we can do to restore it. If you want to build a better future for our children, you will find inspiration in Ours Was the Shining Future.”—Raj Chetty, William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics, Harvard University

“Well-researched, thoughtful work . . . excellent.”—Kirkus Reviews
Product Details
ISBN: 9780812993202
ISBN-10: 0812993209
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: October 24th, 2023
Pages: 528
Language: English


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