Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America

Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. New York: Basic Books, 1991, 430 pp. (Paperback edition, 1992)
By James Hunter

1992 Critics-Choice Award (Christianity Today)
Finalist 1992 L.A. Times Book Prize
Selected as an alternate in the Book of the Month Club, the History Book Club, and the Quality Paperback Book Club
Honarable Mention, Phi Beta Kappa Book Competition

Abortion, funding for the arts, women's rights, gay rights, court-packing--the list of controversies that divide our nation runs long and each one cuts deep. This book shows that these issues are not isolated from one another but are, in fact, part of a fabric of conflict which constitutes nothing short of a struggle over the meaning of America. Unlike the religious and cultural conflict that historically divided the nation, the contemporary culture war is fought along new and, in many ways, unfamiliar lines. Its foundation is a profound realignment in American culture which cuts across established moral and religious communities.

Culture Wars presents a riveting account of how Christian fundamentalist, Orthodox Jews,and conservative Catholics have joined forces in a fierce battle against their progressive counterparts--secularist, reform Jews, liberal Catholics and Protestants--as each side struggles to gain control over such fields of conflict as the family, art, education, law, and politics. Not since the Civil War has there been such fundamental disaggreement over basic assumptions about truth, freedom, and our national identity.

The Controversies are intensified by the very means through which adversaries press their agenda. Public debate in contemporary America, according to Hunter, is no so much a process of mutual understanding and negotiation as the exercise of power politics--of imposing one agenda to the exclusion of another. The book shows how this impassioned culture war effects not only the active participants but also those of us who hold the middle ground. And the author points to ways in which these conflicts might become an opportunity for enriching democratic debate.