Wilding of America: Greed, Violence, and the New American Dream

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In April 1989, a gang of teenagers attacked a jogger in New York's Central Park; the press dubbed the crime "wilding." Charles Derber maintains that the chilling antisocial mentality behind this offense is far more widespread than people would like to believe. With a fascinating twist of perspective, Derber reveals startling links between criminal wilding on the street, emotional wilding in families, economic wilding on Wall Street, political wilding in Washington, and other forms of "legitimate" sociopathic ...
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Overview

In April 1989, a gang of teenagers attacked a jogger in New York's Central Park; the press dubbed the crime "wilding." Charles Derber maintains that the chilling antisocial mentality behind this offense is far more widespread than people would like to believe. With a fascinating twist of perspective, Derber reveals startling links between criminal wilding on the street, emotional wilding in families, economic wilding on Wall Street, political wilding in Washington, and other forms of "legitimate" sociopathic behavior. He argues that morally these actions are different, but socially they reflect the unbridled pursuit of self-interest. Through the lens of this broader view of wilding, Derber examines such cases as O.J. Simpson, Tonya Harding, Susan Smith, Lyle and Erik Menendez, Michael Milken, the S & L and Orange County scandals, and such issues as corporate greed, screen violence, campus cheating and hazing, drug dealing, child and spouse abuse, and the Newt Gingrich revolution. In The Wilding of America, Derber makes a cogent and compelling case that wilding extends far beyond random violence by youth gangs. Americans are, he argues, in danger of becoming a nation of wilders - one in which their often ruthless exercise of individual freedom threatens to unravel society itself. But there may be solutions. In a passionate final chapter, Derber shows how Americans can rethink individualism, and how they can construct a compassionate society and a more responsible vision of the American Dream.

When a gang of teens attacked a jogger in New York's Central Park in 1989, the press dubbed the crime "wilding." With a fascinating twist of perspective, sociologist Derber maintains that the chilling anti-social mentality behind the offense is far more widespread than people believe, and reveals startling links between criminal wilding on the street, emotional wilding in families, economic wilding on Wall Street, and political wilding in Washington.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Boston College sociologist Derber (Power in the Highest Degree) borrows the term ``wilding" from the notorious "Central Park jogger'' case-where it referred to gang violence-to encompass economic, political and social abuses based on greed, selfishness and violence. His broad-brush essay, commenting on recent phenomena from the S&L scandal to The Bell Curve to street violence, should interest both communitarians and left-wing social critics. Yes, America's culture of individualism, which has influenced the Menendez brothers as well as Republican government-shredders, can be pernicious, but Derber's suggestion that ``the wilding virus'' is both cause and consequence discounts factors beyond culture. Thus, while he suggests that we must rebuild cultural institutions such as schools, churches and families, his call for a ``social market'' that provides European-style benefits such as health care seems quixotic because it does not address the political reform that must come first. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Derber (sociology, Boston Coll.), first explored the "wilding" phenomenon in Money, Murder and the American Dream (Faber, 1992). While the term refers to random street violence such as the brutal beating of a Central Park jogger in 1989, Derber extends the definition to encompass such antisocial behavior as hate crimes, spousal abuse, premeditated murder of parents or children, and less violent acts committed for personal gain. Among the notorious examples are murderers such as the Menendez brothers, Susan Smith, and Rob Marshall (a successful businessman who arranged his wife's murder for her insurance), and junk bond king Michael Milken. Derber sees America's social fabric breaking down at an alarming rate as more people at all social strata pursue divisive and unattainable goals, become frustrated, and react in antisocial ways. He blames Republican social policies for making matters worse, especially by widening the gap between rich and poor, but he remains optimistic that we can stop the trend toward anarchy. His optimism is based on the numerous examples of openness, generosity, and moral idealism he sees as still prevalent in U.S. society. We need to build on the positive examples and thereby resurrect civil society, he notes. Although not everyone will embrace Derber's faith in the social sciences to bring this about, his message needs to be widely read and debated. Highly recommended for most libraries.-Gary D. Barber, SUNY at Fredonia Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312140694
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1995
  • Series: Contemporary Social Issues Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
1 The Good Man Fills His Own Stomach: All-American Crimes and Misdemeanors 1
2 The Ultimate Wilders: Rob Marshall, the Menendez Brothers, and Susan Smith - Prisoners of the American Dream 19
3 A Fish Rots from the Head First: Washington and Wall Street Go Wild 37
4 U.S. Business vs. Us: Global Capitalism and Corporate Wilding 61
5 The Dreamin' Is Easy and the Living Is Hard: A Wilding Recipe for the 1990s 81
6 Killing Society: The Ungluing of America 103
7 Welfare, Prisons, and Orphanages: Social Wilding and the Politics of Triage 125
8 Beyond Wilding: Resurrecting Civil Society 145
Index 169
About the Author 182
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