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America's Crisis of Values: Reality and Perception / Edition 1
     

America's Crisis of Values: Reality and Perception / Edition 1

by Wayne E. Baker
 

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ISBN-10: 0691127875

ISBN-13: 9780691127873

Pub. Date: 07/03/2006

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Is America bitterly divided? Has America lost its traditional values? Many politicians and religious leaders believe so, as do the majority of Americans, based on public opinion polls taken over the past several years. But is this crisis of values real?

This book explores the moral terrain of America today, analyzing the widely held perception that the nation is

Overview

Is America bitterly divided? Has America lost its traditional values? Many politicians and religious leaders believe so, as do the majority of Americans, based on public opinion polls taken over the past several years. But is this crisis of values real?

This book explores the moral terrain of America today, analyzing the widely held perception that the nation is in moral decline. It looks at the question from a variety of angles, examining traditional values, secular values, religious values, family values, economic values, and others. Using unique data from the World Values Surveys, the largest systematic attempt ever made to document attitudes, values, and beliefs around the world, this book systematically evaluates the perceived crisis of values by comparing America's values with those of over 60 other nations.

The results are surprising. The evidence shows overwhelmingly that America has not lost its traditional values, that the nation compares favorably with most other societies, and that the culture war is largely a myth.

The gap between reality and perception does not represent mass ignorance of the facts or an overblown moral panic, Baker contends. Rather, the widespread perception of a crisis of values is a real and legitimate interpretation of life in a society that is in the middle of a fundamental transformation and that contains growing cultural contradictions. Instead of posing a problem, the author argues, this crisis rhetoric serves the valuable social function of reminding us of what it means to be American. As such, it preserves the ideological foundation of the nation.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691127873
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/03/2006
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xv

Chapter One: A Question of Values 1
The Widespread Perception of Crisis 2
Three Ways to Think About a Crisis of Values—Loss, Unfavorable Comparison, and Division 6
Threats to America as an Imagined Community 10
Conclusion 13

Chapter Two: America's Values in Global Context 17
Two Dimensions of Cultural Variation and Change 18
Global Cultural Maps 22
Loss of Traditional Values 35
Unfavorable Comparisons with Other Societies 38
Why Have Some Values Changed and Others Stayed the Same? 42
Conclusion 61

Chapter Three: Culture War 64
The Culture War Thesis 65
The Polarization of Americans 73
Linkage of the Hierarchy of Beliefs 85
The Connection between Social Capital and Moral Visions 95
Is There an American Culture War—Could There Be? 103
Conclusion 107

Chapter Four: Dynamics of Crisis 110
Tides of American History 112
An Interpretation of the Dynamics of Crisis 134
Conclusion 156

Chapter Five: The Search for Meaning 159
Mixed Systems, Cultural Contradictions, and Cognitive Dissonance 161
Rising Spirituality and the "New Age" 166
The Special Role of Absolutism in America 173
An Integration of Opposites 180
Summary of Key Findings 183

Appendix A: World Values Surveys 189
Appendix B: Statistical Tables 197

Notes 251
Index 299

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