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Hunter, James Davison. Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. New York: Basic Books, 1991 (416 pp.). This lengthy sociological study looks at the forces that divide America into political, social, moral, and religious factions. Davison is a scholar of theology, so naturally his history and contemporary approach focus mainly on the religious overtones of the "struggle to define America." He essentially says we’re dealing with different moral structures and, as such, our vocabulary for talking about our differences does not work. Like other authors in CHG’s Public Trust section, he advocates a new breed of public discourse, but unlike some writers who are struggling with finding ways to help uncover "shared values" and a more homogeneous American identity, Hunter suggests we are never going to agree about many issues. What’s important, he believes, is finding civil ways to disagree. This very readable book contains a good historical overview of the development of the culture wars, as well as an interesting philosophical and linguistic study of the principles and languages of competing moral visions. Hunter examines the implications of the culture wars on major institutions – the media, education, religion – and communities could use his approach to language, in particular, to frame their own civic activities.


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