Culture Wars and Enduring American Dilemmas

by kris bishop on February 22, 2010

by guest author Alan Wolfe, Boston College Political Science, and editor of the series: Contemporary Political and Social Issues

Culturewars_bookcover“In 2008, John McCain, always known as something of a centrist or moderate Republican, picked the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his running mate. The moment he did so, the culture war returned to American politics. Although the economy was entering a tailspin and dangers were prominent around the world, once again we were discussing whether elites had lost touch with the common people by failing to appreciate religion and dismissing people’s concerns with morality.

The Palin selection raised a larger question: Did we ever have a culture war in the first place? In this book, Irene Taviss Thomson offers an original and important new way of answering that question. Whether or not a culture war indeed existed out there in Middle America, just about everyone who wrote on the topic agreed that elites themselves were sharply divided between liberal and conservative views of the world. And, the argument went, the raging culture war was especially apparent in the media, whatever was happening in small-town America…

Rather than simply assuming the truth of this proposition, Thomson looks at the media—specifically, opinion magazines. Her research challenges the idea that our opinion leaders are engaged in an implacable war with each other. Culture has historically been defined as the common values that bind together a society. Thomson shows that this idea of culture remains very much alive. America remains a nation where agreement is more striking than disagreement. No matter how bitter and polarized our politics can seem, this truth should never be lost, and Thomson provides the evidence needed to back it up. Opinion leaders need to think about their own role in the culture war; Thomson has helped them do it.”

––Alan Wolfe

About the Book

Culturewars_bookcover Culture Wars and Enduring American Dilemmas
  Irene Taviss Thomson

    • Cloth: 978-0-472-07088-6
    • Paper: 978-0-472-05088-8

“An important work showing—beneath surface conflict—a deep consensus on a number of ideals by social elites.”
—John H. Evans, Department of Sociology, University of California, San Diego

“Irene Taviss Thomson gives us a nuanced portrait of American social politics that helps explain both why we are drawn to the idea of a ‘culture war’ and why that misrepresents what is actually going on.”
—Rhys H. Williams, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, Loyola University Chicago

Also of Interest in the Contemporary Political and Social Issues Series:

Putting Faith in Partnerships: Welfare-to-Work in Four Cities
Stephen V. Monsma

The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power after Watergate
  Andrew Rudalevige

Self-Financed Candidates in Congressional Elections
  Jennifer A. Steen

Trust beyond Borders: Immigration, the Welfare State, and Identity in Modern Societies
  Markus M. L. Crepaz

America Beyond Black and White: How Immigrants and Fusions Are Helping us Overcome the Racial Divide
Ronald Fernandez

America at Risk: Threats to Liberal Self-Government in an Age of Uncertainty
  Robert Faulkner and Susan Shell, Editors

Barack Obama’s America: How New Conceptions of Race, Family, and Religion Ended the Reagan Era
  John Kenneth White


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