Finding Virtue's Place: Examining America's Civic Life

By S. Lance Denning | Go to book overview

Preface

Burbling below the news flashes of the day, a social tsunami swells. We hear about it most often in the sirens from the Right. A moral decay engulfs society. Divorce erodes families. Crime ebbs ever closer to our backdoors, and the backwaters of permissiveness encourage teen pregnancy, welfare dependency, and drug abuse. Whatever depth of insight the Right offers, their beacons of concern address exclusively America's moral and civic behavior. The Left, if a Left exists these days, counters that economic inequalities and the concentration of wealth exacerbates social tension and moral choices. Crimes decrease if jobs increase. Welfare is not a moral choice, more an economic one. Illicit drug use -- as opposed to the socially accepted alcohol and tobacco use -- decreases when a safe environment and the prospects for a professional career demand a youth's time and energy.

The battle lines are thus drawn. The Right focuses on America's decrepit morality and cries out for an infusion of character. The Left demands greater commitments to economic policies that nurture education and employment to overcome poverty, homelessness, and the more widespread squeeze on middle-class families. The outcome from these battles is well established. Since both enunciate legitimate concerns and real dangers, both positions state valid points. But American politics demands a winner and a loser, and most often the winner never considers what the loser discusses. Campaigns boil down to carefully drawn districts, spending more money than one's opponent does, and blasting negative advertisements to catch the public's attention. After the election cycle and with the incumbents safely reelected, legislating turns into an endless stalemate over any roughly contentious national policy. Special interests dominate the process and nit

-ix-

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Finding Virtue's Place: Examining America's Civic Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 - Our Civic Ideal and Today's Debate 1
  • Notes 24
  • 2 - The Sham of Civic Virtue 27
  • Notes 50
  • 3 - Equality and Civic Health 53
  • Notes 77
  • 4 - Confronting Complexity 81
  • Notes 105
  • 5 - At the Confluence of Theory and Practice 107
  • Notes 129
  • 6 - Changing Our Balance 131
  • Notes 155
  • Selected Bibliography 157
  • Index 163
  • About the Author *
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