American Culture in Peril

American Culture in Peril

American Culture in Peril

American Culture in Peril

Excerpt

Any coherent and viable society rests on a common set of moral understandings about good and bad, right and wrong, in the realm of individual and social action. It is almost as widely held that these common moral understandings must also rest in turn upon a common set of religious understandings that provide a picture of the universe in terms of which the moral understandings make sense. Such moral and religious understandings produce both a basic cultural legitimation for a society which is viewed as at least approximately in accord with them, and a standard of judgment for the criticism of society that is seen as deviating too far from them. [Emphasis supplied]

—Robert N. Bellah

Like the constantly changing patterns of light produced by a kaleidoscope, a broad and changeable array of values distinguishes American culture. Focusing on the values themselves, though— the product of the kaleidoscope— presents a daunting task, much like piecing together a mosaic of fragments without benefit of the artist’s vision of the finished work. Since the constantly changing patterns of light are not a cause but a result, profit rests in an examination of the causes and consequences of the kaleidoscopic values in American culture.

First though, how important are values in a culture? Exceedingly important, because culture is like a constellation of all the ideas, habits, values, prejudices, and institutions that make up a society. In short, culture reflects the attitudes and behavior patterns of a society.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.