Is There a Culture War?: A Dialogue on Values and American Public Life / Edition 1

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Overview

In the wake of a bitter presidential campaign and in the face of numerous divisive policy questions, many Americans wonder if their country has split in two. People are passionately choosing sides on contentious issues such as the invasion of Iraq, gay marriage, stem-cell research, and the right to die, and the battle over abortion continues unabated. Social and political splits fascinate the media: we hear of Red States against Blue States and the "Religious Right" against "Secular America"; Fox News and Air America; NASCAR dads and soccer moms. Is America, in fact, divided so clearly? Does a moderate middle still exist? Is the national fabric fraying? To the extent that these divisions exist, are they simply the healthy and unavoidable products of a diverse, democratic nation? In Is There a Culture War? two of America's leading authorities on political culture lead a provocative and thoughtful investigation of this question and its ramifications.

James Davison Hunter and Alan Wolfe debate these questions with verve, insight, and a deep knowledge rooted in years of study and reflection. Long before most scholars and pundits addressed the issue, Hunter and Wolfe were identifying the fault lines in the debate. Hunter's 1992 book Culture Wars put the term in popular circulation, arguing that America was in the midst of a "culture war" over "our most fundamental and cherished assumptions about how to order our lives." Six years later, in One Nation After All, Wolfe challenged the idea of a culture war and argued that a majority of Americans were seeking a middle way, a blend of the traditional and the modern. For the first time, these two distinguished scholars join in dialogue to clarify their differences, update their arguments, and search for the truth about America's cultural condition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Essential for serious academic collections." —Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr College, Library Journal, 1/15/2007

"This collection of essays is a valuable contribution to the conversation concerning the notion of culture war in the United States. It would be useful as a text for a graduate seminar dealing with the religion and society of culture and politics." — Journal of Church and State, 5/1/2007

"Two important essays focus on the existence or nonexistence of a culture war....Comments on the essays from historian Gertrude Himmelfarb and political scientist Morris P. Fiorina, and additional responses from Hunter and Wolfe, provide a rich debate. Highly recommended." — CHOICE, 6/1/2007

Library Journal
An installment in a series of slim debates between acknowledged scholarly experts on significant public controversies, this volume takes up the position that, yes, Americans are indeed at "culture war." Hunter (sociology & religious studies, Univ. of Virginia; The Death of Character) introduced this concept to academe a year before politician Patrick Buchanan's incantation of the phrase at the 1992 Republican Convention. But Hunter—usually a lively writer—so overemphasizes the methodological deficiencies he perceives in the arguments for a prevailing mainstream consensus that lay readers might think the debate is in fact merely academic. With the exception of one real-world case presented in two paragraphs immediately preceding his conclusion, Hunter scolds liberal social scientists for relying too much on survey data that most of his peers believe are sound and useful. Offering a rejoinder, Wolfe (political science, Boston Coll.; Return to Greatness) readily romps in all that open undefended space, invoking various scandals and generally reminding the audience why the subject is important. In an afterword, the uninhibitedly traditionalist historian Gertrude Himmelfarb paints such a vividly witty but dismal portrait of American fractiousness that Hunter's turgidity becomes even more apparent. A great concept that falls flat; still, essential for serious academic collections.
—Scott H. Silverman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815795155
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 4/20/2006
  • Series: Pew Forum Dialogue Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 118
  • Sales rank: 1,237,360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

James Davison Hunter is the William R. Kenan Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, where he is also executive director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. Among his several books is The Death of Character: On Moral Education of America's Children (Basic Books, 2000). Alan Wolfe is a professor of political science at Boston College, where he directs the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. He is the author of numberous books, most recently Return to Greatness: How America Lost Its Sense of Purpose and What It Needs to Do to Recover It (Princeton, 2005).

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Modernist, Orthodox, or Flexidox? Why the Culture War
Debate Endures - by E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Michael Cromartie
The Enduring Culture War - by James Davison Hunter
The Culture War that Never Came - by Alan Wolfe
Comment: The Other Culture War - by Gertrude Himmelfarb
Comment: Further Reflections on the Cuture War Thesis - by Morris P.
Fiorina
A Response - by James Davison Hunter
A Response - by Alan Wolfe
Contributors
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