The Fractious Nation? Unity and Division in Contemporary American Life

The Fractious Nation? Unity and Division in Contemporary American Life

The Fractious Nation? Unity and Division in Contemporary American Life

The Fractious Nation? Unity and Division in Contemporary American Life


Less than a year before two planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the 2000 presidential election produced not just the blue-and-red electoral map but also revealed the fractured nation that those totemic colors represent. And from the cultural wars to immigration restriction, from the Christian right to political correctness, recent decades have witnessed much hand-wringing on the left and the right about the fragmentation of American life. "The Fractious Nation? enlists the critical intelligence of fourteen distinguished contributors who illuminate the schisms in American life and the often volatile debates they have inspired in the realms of culture, ethnic and racial pluralism, and political life.

"This collection of essays offers a bracing challenge to widely held beliefs about cultural and political fragmentation in the United States today. "The Fractious Nation? may well change the debate on issues ranging from multiculturalism and race relations to governance and public philosophy."--William A. Galston, author of "Liberal Purposes: Goods, Virtues, and Diversity on the Liberal State

"The virtue of this stunning collection of essays is the shrewd moderation of its authors, who explain that while we in the United States have serious social conflict, we also have the intellectual resources to address it. Most of all, "The Fractious Nation, whose contributors embrace very different political approaches, reminds us that we must struggle to understand what constitutes nationhood in this difficult century."--Stanley N. Katz, professor, Woodrow Wilson School, and director of Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Princeton University

"With an all-star team ofcontributors, this volume explores the many ways that fear of fragmentation plagues the American psyche today and provides the kind of understanding that allows us to overcome such fears. The breadth of talent assembled between the cov


Throughout the last decades of the twentieth century, Americans recurrently worried about the conflicts that divided the nation. On the right and the left, mulling bitter struggles over abortion, politics, and race, people voiced concern that a certain testiness, and beyond, even fragmentation, had come to afflict our national life. The Fractious Nation? seeks to illuminate the schisms, the often anxious debates they inspired, and the powerful forces that continue to generate unity in the United States.

On the surface such political, racial, and cultural rancor seems starkly out of kilter with the feelings of shared purpose and molten outrage that appeared after September 11, 2001. That everything changed in the United States on that frightful day quickly became a great cliché, and like most clichés this one contains a kernel of truth. a book on unity and division in recent American history has to acknowledge the reverberating fact of brutal attack. Even though it has dimmed in memory, September 11 marked a break in our sense of time. Just as Pearl Harbor projected American might into the global arena and altered American politics and culture, the Al Qaeda attack has had a powerful, if not as drastic, impact on national solidarity, on perceptions of domestic and foreign enemies, on the balance of civil liberties and national security, on the debate over America's role as a global leader, on the congressional agenda, and on fiscal priorities.

Despite such undeniable changes, as well as the media's penchant for . . .

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