Robert Wuthnow finds that those who are most involved in acts of compassion are no less individualistic than anyone else--and that those who are the most intensely individualistic are no less involved in caring for others.
Robert Wuthnow is Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.
The American Dream is in serious danger, according to Robert Wuthnow--not because of economic conditions, but because its moral underpinnings have been forgotten. In the past this vision was not simply a formula for success, but a moral perspective that framed our thinking about work and money in terms of broader commitments to family, community, and humanitarian values. Nowadays, we are working harder than ever, and yet many of us feel that we are not realizing our higher aspirations as individuals or as a people. Here Wuthnow examines the struggles in which American families are now engaged as they try to balance work and family, confront the pressures of consumerism, and find meaning in their careers. He suggests that we can find economic instruction and inspiration in the nation's past--in such figures as Benjamin Franklin, for instance, who was at once the prudent Poor Richard, the engaged public person, and the enthusiastic lover of life.
Drawing on first-hand accounts from scores of people in all walks of life and from a national survey, the book shows that work and money cannot be understood in terms of economic theories alone, but are inevitably rooted in our concepts of ourselves and in the symbolic rituals and taboos of everyday life. By examining these implicit cultural understandings of work and money, the book provides a foundation for bringing moral reasoning more fully to bear on economic decisions. It re-examines the moral arguments that were prominent earlier in our history, shows how these arguments were set aside with the development of economistic thinking, and suggests their continuing relevance in the lives of people who have effectively resisted the pressures of greater financial commitments. Demonstrating that most Americans do bring values implicitly to bear on their economic decisions, the book shows how some people are learning to do this more effectively and, in the process, gain greater control over their work and finances. At a time when policymakers are raising questions about the very survival of the American dream, Poor Richard's Principle offers an analysis of how moral restraint can once again play a more prominent role in guiding our thinking.
Farming is essential to the American economy and our daily lives, yet few of us have much contact with farmers except through the food we eat. Who are America’s farmers? Why is farming important to them? How are they coping with dramatic changes to their way of life? In the Blood paints a vivid and moving portrait of America’s farm families, shedding new light on their beliefs, values, and complicated relationship with the land.
Drawing on more than two hundred in-depth interviews, Robert Wuthnow presents farmers in their own voices as they speak candidly about their family traditions, aspirations for their children, business arrangements, and conflicts with family members. They describe their changing relationships with neighbors, their shifting views about religion, and the subtle ways they defend their personal independence. Wuthnow shares the stories of farmers who operate dairies, raise livestock, and grow our fruit and vegetables. We hear from corn and soybean farmers, wheat-belt farmers, and cotton growers. We gain new insights into how farmers assign meaning to the land, and how they grapple with the increasingly difficult challenges of biotechnology and global markets.
In the Blood reveals how, despite profound changes in modern agriculture, farming remains an enduring commitment that runs deeply in the veins of today’s farm families.
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents of other non-Western religions have become a significant presence in the United States in recent years. Yet many Americans continue to regard the United States as a Christian society. How are we adapting to the new diversity? Do we casually announce that we "respect" the faiths of non-Christians without understanding much about those faiths? Are we willing to do the hard work required to achieve genuine religious pluralism?
Award-winning author Robert Wuthnow tackles these and other difficult questions surrounding religious diversity and does so with his characteristic rigor and style. America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity looks not only at how we have adapted to diversity in the past, but at the ways rank-and-file Americans, clergy, and other community leaders are responding today. Drawing from a new national survey and hundreds of in-depth qualitative interviews, this book is the first systematic effort to assess how well the nation is meeting the current challenges of religious and cultural diversity.
The results, Wuthnow argues, are both encouraging and sobering--encouraging because most Americans do recognize the right of diverse groups to worship freely, but sobering because few Americans have bothered to learn much about religions other than their own or to engage in constructive interreligious dialogue. Wuthnow contends that responses to religious diversity are fundamentally deeper than polite discussions about civil liberties and tolerance would suggest. Rather, he writes, religious diversity strikes us at the very core of our personal and national theologies. Only by understanding this important dimension of our culture will we be able to move toward a more reflective approach to religious pluralism.
Much has been written about the profound impact the post-World War II baby boomers had on American religion. But the lifestyles and beliefs of the generation that has followed--and the influence these younger Americans in their twenties and thirties are having on the face of religion--are not so well understood. It is this next wave of post-boomers that Robert Wuthnow examines in this illuminating book.
What are their churchgoing habits and spiritual interests and needs? How does their faith affect their families, their communities, and their politics? Interpreting new evidence from scores of in-depth interviews and surveys, Wuthnow reveals a generation of younger adults who, unlike the baby boomers that preceded them, are taking their time establishing themselves in careers, getting married, starting families of their own, and settling down--resulting in an estimated six million fewer regular churchgoers. He shows how the recent growth in evangelicalism is tapering off, and traces how biblical literalism, while still popular, is becoming less dogmatic and more preoccupied with practical guidance. At the same time, Wuthnow explains how conflicts between religious liberals and conservatives continue--including among new immigrant groups such as Hispanics and Asians--and how in the absence of institutional support many post-boomers have taken a more individualistic, improvised approach to spirituality. Wuthnow's fascinating analysis also explores the impacts of the Internet and so-called virtual churches, and the appeal of megachurches.
After the Baby Boomers offers us a tantalizing look at the future of American religion for decades to come.
No state has voted Republican more consistently or widely or for longer than Kansas. To understand red state politics, Kansas is the place. It is also the place to understand red state religion. The Kansas Board of Education has repeatedly challenged the teaching of evolution, Kansas voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage, the state is a hotbed of antiabortion protest--and churches have been involved in all of these efforts. Yet in 1867 suffragist Lucy Stone could plausibly proclaim that, in the cause of universal suffrage, "Kansas leads the world!" How did Kansas go from being a progressive state to one of the most conservative?
In Red State Religion, Robert Wuthnow tells the story of religiously motivated political activism in Kansas from territorial days to the present. He examines how faith mixed with politics as both ordinary Kansans and leaders such as John Brown, Carrie Nation, William Allen White, and Dwight Eisenhower struggled over the pivotal issues of their times, from slavery and Prohibition to populism and anti-communism. Beyond providing surprising new explanations of why Kansas became a conservative stronghold, the book sheds new light on the role of religion in red states across the Midwest and the United States. Contrary to recent influential accounts, Wuthnow argues that Kansas conservatism is largely pragmatic, not ideological, and that religion in the state has less to do with politics and contentious moral activism than with relationships between neighbors, friends, and fellow churchgoers.
This is an important book for anyone who wants to understand the role of religion in American political conservatism.
On January 29, 2001, President George W. Bush signed an executive order creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. This action marked a key step toward institutionalizing an idea that emerged in the mid-1990s under the Clinton administration--the transfer of some social programs from government control to religious organizations. However, despite an increasingly vocal, ideologically charged national debate--a debate centered on such questions as: What are these organizations doing? How well are they doing it? Should they be supported with tax dollars?--solid answers have been few.
In Saving America? Robert Wuthnow provides a wealth of up-to-date information whose absence, until now, has hindered the pursuit of answers. Assembling and analyzing new evidence from research he and others have conducted, he reveals what social support faith-based agencies are capable of providing. Among the many questions he addresses: Are congregations effective vehicles for providing broad-based social programs, or are they best at supporting their own members? How many local congregations have formal programs to assist needy families? How much money do such programs represent? How many specialized faith-based service agencies are there, and which are most effective? Are religious organizations promoting trust, love, and compassion?
The answers that emerge demonstrate that American religion is helping needy families and that it is, more broadly, fostering civil society. Yet religion alone cannot save America from the broad problems it faces in providing social services to those who need them most.
Elegantly written, Saving America? represents an authoritative and evenhanded benchmark of information for the current--and the coming--debate.
Tracing the intersection of religion, race, and power in Texas from Reconstruction through the rise of the Religious Right and the failed presidential bid of Governor Rick Perry, Rough Country illuminates American history since the Civil War in new ways, demonstrating that Texas’s story is also America’s. In particular, Robert Wuthnow shows how distinctions between “us” and “them” are perpetuated and why they are so often shaped by religion and politics.
Early settlers called Texas a rough country. Surviving there necessitated defining evil, fighting it, and building institutions in the hope of advancing civilization. Religion played a decisive role. Today, more evangelical Protestants live in Texas than in any other state. They have influenced every presidential election for fifty years, mobilized powerful efforts against abortion and same-sex marriage, and been a driving force in the Tea Party movement. And religion has always been complicated by race and ethnicity.
Drawing from memoirs, newspapers, oral history, voting records, and surveys, Rough Country tells the stories of ordinary men and women who struggled with the conditions they faced, conformed to the customs they knew, and on occasion emerged as powerful national leaders. We see the lasting imprint of slavery, public executions, Jim Crow segregation, and resentment against the federal government. We also observe courageous efforts to care for the sick, combat lynching, provide for the poor, welcome new immigrants, and uphold liberty of conscience.
A monumental and magisterial history, Rough Country is as much about the rest of America as it is about Texas.
This book of original essays provides an objective and enlightening analysis of the emergence and changing forms of the New Christian Right. The subject is in itself important in contemporary American life, but in addition The New Christian Right reexamines standard theories of social movements and the relationship between religion and politics in America today.
The book presents findings from original research, including surveys, personal interviews with elites, analysis of financial documents, reanalysis of existing data, and analysis of direct-mail solicitations and other primary literature. The New Christian Right is balanced and objective rather than partisan and evaluative. Using non-technical and non-jargonistic language, the authors raise questions concerning the nature of religion, the role of status groups, and contemporary directions in American culture.