Cultures at War: Moral Conflicts in Western Democracies / Edition 1

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Cultures at War explains the rise and impact of moral conflicts on the recent political life of western democracies. Smith and Tatalovich conceptualize all moral conflicts as clashes between egalitarian and hierarchical forces. At their core, moral conflicts are debates over "identity" and the status of various groups in society.

The book is organized around the "stages" of the policy process, especially agenda-setting and adoption. How the policy process is affected by moral debate is analyzed through numerous case studies drawn mainly from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Central to the entire analysis are three moral conflicts—capital punishment, homosexuality, and abortion—though others, for example gun control, euthanasia, and fox hunting, are included to illustrate specific points.

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What People Are Saying

Kenneth N. Bickers

Cultures at War is a careful and thought-provoking treatment of the rise of morality issues in the United States and other western democracies. Its thesis is that morality issues increasingly are displacing the bread-and-butter issues that dominated politics in these countries through most of the twentieth century. As a consequence, our theoretical models for understanding politics must adapt in ways that will focus attention on the essential features of morality policies. The authors also conclude that the rise of morality issues has produced a type of politics that is inherently anti-democratic. This is a provocative thesis—one that should be taken seriously by anyone who believes that policy decisions ultimately must be subject to the majoritarian process. This book poses the possibility that these political questions now facing western democracies are the product of historical and social forces as large as industrialization itself and that the end result of the shift towards these issues is a loss of majoritarian empowerment that was the singular achievement of western democracies. Cultures at War is a book that will be read and re-read by students of public policy, politics, and society.

Philip Cowley

This is a very readable, yet also well argued, analysis of the field. It summarises an immense amount of literature on the subject, as well as drawing together masses of related material. To have done it at all is a considerable feat. To have done it in such a readable manner is a minor triumph.

Leslie A. Pal

This book marries rigorous scholarship with riveting examples of morality policy across five countries. The role of values, ethics, and competing moral visions in public policy has long needed treatment of this scope and clarity.

Paulette Kurzer

This is a refreshing look at some of the most contentious issues that bedevil modern political life. [...] Cultures at War stands out [...] as an important contribution to the growing field of comparative public policy of moral regulation. The authors are undoubtedly correct to conclude that morality issues will increase in salience and that their resolution leaves much to be desired. This accessible study goes a long way toward charting the unpredictability of new political alignments and the opaqueness of the democratic process.

Lisa L. Ferrar

Smith and Tatalovich have assembled a tremendous amount of information and their approach should spur political scientists to reconsider their models for analyzing policymaking. This ambitious work raises valuable questions about the relationship between morality and policymaking, and indeed the purpose of government in democratic societies.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781551113340
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division
  • Publication date: 1/8/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 302
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

T. Alexander Smith is Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee. He has authored Time and Public Policy (Tennessee, 1988) and co-authored Black Anxiety, White Guilt, and the Politics of Status Frustration (Praeger, 1997).

Raymond Tatalovich is Professor of Political Science at Loyola University Chicago. He has authored The Official English Language Movement and the American States (Kentucky, 1995) and The Politics of Abortion in the United States and Canada (M.E. Sharpe, 1997).

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Table of Contents


1. Introduction: A New Politics for a New Century

Part I: Raw Material for a Politics and Policy of Moral Conflict

2. Status Anxiety and Political Ideology

3. Cultural Theory and Warring Cultures

Part II: Morality Politics by Unconventional Means

4. Breaking Into or Breaking Apart the Political System

5. Politicians Strike Back: Legislative Restraints on Morality Policy

6. The Juridicization of the Morality Policy Process

7. Bypassing Elites: Morality Policy by Plebiscite

Part III: Uncompromising Ends of Morality Policy

8. Building Political Consensus and the Public Peace

9. Conclusion: Morality Policy and Democratic Governance


A.1: Attitudes Toward Capital Punishment in Five Western Democracies

A.2: Attitudes Toward Abortion in Five Western Democracies

A.3: Attitudes Toward Homosexuality in Five Western Democracies

Select Bibliography


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