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America's Crisis of Values


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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

Promotional Information

This is an indispensable book to understanding the transformation of American culture on the basis of solid evidence and rigorous methodology. It demonstrates the usefulness of social science to clarify the fundamental debates, which have been obscured by ideology and prejudice. It should be required reading in universities around the world. -- Manuel Castells, Professor of Communication and Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society, University of Southern California This is by far the most complete and comprehensive empirical examination of the topic. A significant contribution to the field. -- John H. Evans, University of California, San Diego America's Crisis of Values is the most sophisticated account we have of opinion and value polarization in cross-national perspective. Clear, accessible, and loaded with evidence, it makes a uniquely valuable contribution by placing the U.S. case in a much broader context; distinguishing polarization of values from polarization of policy preferences (and demonstrating how surprisingly weak is the link between the two); and by showing where each has been growing or declining around the world. This book is required reading for any social scientist concerned with the "culture wasr" and the issues surrounding themt. -- Paul DiMaggio, Princeton University Amid continuing speculation about culture wars and an erosion of traditional values, Wayne Baker has produced a valuable study grounded in an extensive examination of empirical data. Optimists and pessimists alike should read this book carefully--for both will find surprises that challenge their preconceived ideas. -- Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

About the Author

Wayne E. Baker is Professor of Management and Organizations and Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, where he is also Faculty Associate at the Institute for Social Research, and Faculty Associate at the Nonprofit and Public Management Center.


"[T]he arrival of Wayne Baker's important book ... is a welcome development... By Baker's account, the perceived crisis of values is unlikely to disappear any time soon. One can only hope that pundits and politicians will take some time off from waging culture war to read America's Crisis of Values."--David Callahan, Political Science Quarterly "Anyone concerned about American values in the larger world will be impressed by the elegance and clarity with which Baker treats this complex subject."--Choice "Is America experiencing a crisis of values, as popular media and politics claim? In a word: no. Wayne Baker ... give[s] the most comprehensive empirical analysis of the topic to date."--Contemporary Sociology "Wayne E. Baker tries to explain why a gap has opened between the public perception that the U.S. is sharply divided and the empirical reality that it is not... America's Crisis of Values is an important book that ought to be included in any seminar designed to provide background reading for our elected politicians."--Alan Wolfe, Christian Century "Wayne Baker has produced a thoughtful and engaging work. Scholars interested in public opinion, values, and the discourse surrounding the culture wars in the United States should read America's Crisis of Values."--James A. McCann, Perspectives on Politics [A] deeply provocative book. It raises many questions for further investigation, and it will reward careful study."--Barry Schwartz, American Journal of Sociology

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