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Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 on NPR, is a journalist and the author of the novels Hey Day, Turn of the Century, The Real Thing, and his latest non-fiction book[…]

Despite the surfeit of bad habits that Americans have picked up during years of prosperity, Kurt Andersen feels that a new form of citizenry is starting to emerge that will prove vital to the country’s future.

QuestionWhat is the amateur spirit?

Kurt Andersen: Well I think even for all the craziness of the last twenty or twenty-five years and all the bad habits that we developed over the last fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years, one of the great things that we've seen is indeed a Renaissance of the Amateur Spirit in terms of the Web, the creation of the Web itself, the creation of all these digital tools so people can make music and public and make videos and make Web applications and all of these things that have been enabled is a revival of the Amateur Spirit which is really essential to the American spirit. Let's make it up as we go along; let's give full -- let's indulge our tinkering spirit. We can do it. That sort of went out of fashion in a big and profound way over the last hundred years or so and the Web and the digital revolution generally has sort of enabled it anew. So I think if we are one of the things if we're able to write a story of wow, America turned the corner in the early twenty first century and got its mojo back, I think one of the big parts of that story will be that embrace of the Amateur Spirit, whether it's in entrepreneurial senses and the entrepreneurial spirit is all about the Amateur Spirit ultimately. But the unwillingness to believe absolutely that the experts know anything worth knowing is also part of the Amateur Spirit and certainly a too easy and too total and too complacent belief that the experts knew what was going on is certainly one of the things that got us into trouble with all these crazy financial derivatives that nobody understood on Wall Street.

So it's looking to oneself, as a citizen, as a potential entrepreneur, as an artist, as a whatever, to believe in ones own ability to know how to proceed and not simply trust it all to the experts.

Recorded on: October 13, 2009