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Library JournalAn 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