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One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Rev olution [Kindle Edition]

Gertrude Himmelfarb

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Book Description

In One Nation, Two Cultures, one of today's most respected and articulate cultural critics gives us a penetrating examination of the gulf between the two sides of American society -- a divide that cuts across class, racial, ethnic, political, and sexual lines. While one side originated in the traditional idea of republican virtue, the other emerged from the counterculture of the late 1960s and has become the dominant culture of today.

In clear and vigorous prose, Himmelfarb argues that while the dominant culture pervades journalism, academia, television, and film, a "dissident culture" continues to promote the values of family, a civil society, sexual morality, privacy, and patriotism. The clash between these two cultures affects all areas of American society.

Despite her forceful critique, Himmelfarb sees encouraging signs for the future of American culture. She explores the place of religion, family, and the law in American life and proposes democratic remedies for the nation's moral and cultural diseases. Though there are many legitimate grievances against government, she contends, our citizenry cannot afford to delegitimize it. And she concludes that it is a tribute to Americans that, without serious social strife, we remain one nation even as we are divided into two cultures.

One Nation, Two Cultures is a stimulating work, one sure to provoke lively discussion and controversy.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 536 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (15 Dec. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004EBT700
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,661,288 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Gertrude Himmelfarb is one of the world's most respected historians, the author of numerous books from 'Victorian Minds' to 'The Road to Modernity'. She has written extensively on Victorian England, and on intellectual history, and is a fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society. She is accepted to be one of the formative influences on new Conservative politicians.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
36 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Himmelfarb's Democratic Cures 17 April 2001
By A Customer - Published on
"One Nation, Two Cultures" is the best work of cultural criticism and political philosophy by a social conservative in recent years. Himmelfarb argues that pathologies which resulted from the cultural revolutions of the 1960's may be cured by reinvigorated democratic institutions; civil society, the family, and religion. The thesis is not original, but the cogency of Himmelfarb's analysis, her historical insight, and her thoughtful meditation on the two cultures which now exist in the country make her book worthwhile. Those cultures are an elite, permisive and non-judgemental culture and a dissident, moral culture composed almost wholly of people who are religious.
Himmelfarb's analysis of the democratic institutions which might remedy the moral disorder she describes is cogent. She develops a typology of civil society proponents and prefers hard advocates to soft; she echoes Schumpeter's analysis of the decline of the family, and she analyzes religion's positive effects on citizen's morality thoroughly.
Himmelfarb is a historian. Her book consequently has a depth which is lacking in the policy writings of conservative scholars. Civil society, liberals and conservatives agree, needs strenghtening. But did you now that, as she points out, civil society was not in our political vocabulary until the 1980's?
Himmelfarb's meditation on the two cultures which have developed because of the cultural revolutions is similarly thoughtful. For instance, she notes that the gap between elites who are non-judgemental, permissive, and post-modern and a dissident, moral, culture which cuts across class and racial lines is not static. "Elites may provoke a reaction on the part of many who otherwise acquiesce in the values of a domination culture, (but) pushing the envelope may also have the contrary effect of inuring people to such excesses."
Criticisms of Himmelfarb may focus on her writings' ideology or its persuasiveness. Judging whether she comes out on the correct side, politically, on issues like single mother-hood is not simply a matter of comparing your beliefs with hers, but it is mostly that.
I take her least persuasive argument to be that we should legislate morality because we are constantly doing just that. First, the scope of her argument is greater than the evidence she provides--the civil rights legislation of the 1960's, the welfare system's subsidies for out-of-wedlock births, and no-fault divorce laws. Many laws outside the field of civil rights and family laws or can be neutral on questions of morality.
Second, only in the first case is there any real proof that morality has been legislated. Out-of-wedlock births are practical now, as a result of subsidies, but not regularly condoned by communites. No-fault divorce laws have not legitimated divorce, women who are divorcees have come to constitute a sizeable group with its own morality.
Finally, Himmelfarb's argument is most flawed in that it contradicts the unstated premise of Himmelfarb's book, which is that social disorders can be cured by democratic institutions and, without the state's involvement. Civil society can be a hard authoritaive collection of individiuals, families can be rebuilty without the state's intervention, and religion can be a guardian of mores, all without the use of the state by social conservatives.
Moreover, social conservatives will not succeed in creating allies in the culture war if legislating morality becomes their primary tactic. While there is no explict reason that they create allies, Himmelfarb's title seems to suggest that conservatives are not pleased with their dissident status.
14 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Huge Contradction 23 Dec. 2006
By A Customer - Published on
There is something either profoundly naive or, more likely, duplicitous, in advocating the state take up the slack of moral vanguard in the face of a progressive assault on traditional morality. Like a good neo-con, there is nothing genuinely conservative about this argument. In essence, Himmelfarb only has one thesis, the same she presents in all her books: we need to bring back shame and moral condemnation. Practically, this means we need to be smug, as smug as the members of her little circle - the same circle that now has American boys fighting to implement Sharia law in the formerly secular Iraq. Why? Because this is the absurd argument that people of morality can make alliance against the western Left, and that the real divide is between traditional morality and progressive thought, whereas the real divide is between the west and the rest. We will always have more in common with fellow westerners, be they Marxists or atheists, than with Others.

There is no love of Christendom here, no grasp of the pulse of western civilization or the underlying culture of America, only an ongoing attempt to impose on the reader an either/or alternative that will appeal to the unimaginative. Read some Thomas Sowell instead. Gertrude and her apartment-dwelling NY friends really are the Reanointed.
13 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An educated and thoughtful work. 25 Mar. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
This book is a well thought out and even treatise on the state of society today. Without the alarmist or angry overtones that infect many social perspectives and commentaries available. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the divisions of society today.
23 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberals Will love This Book 13 Dec. 2001
By Richard N. Bentley - Published on
As conservative Judge Richard Posner pointed out in the New York Times Book Review (Dec 19, 1999), Ms. Himmelfarb unwittingly makes quite the opposite case from the one she intended to make, describing an American society that could easily impress an observer as being on its "moral uppers". This book should be read alongside Alan Wolfe's "One Nation After All" published a year earlier. Wolfe's book, based on hundreds of interviews conducted for the Middle Class Morality Project of the centrist Russell Sage Foundation, found that most Americans, both liberal and conservative, have developed a complex moral and theological style that holds fast to traditional values while embracing religious and cultural diversity. A better informed population is now more likely to substitute individual conscience and personal responsibility for blind acceptance of authority. The book concluded that the "culture war" theory of America was largely a fiction cooked up by right wing intellectuals and the news media --- which habitually portray the country in terms of stereotyped divisions over moral, racial, and social issues. Ms. Himmelfarb's thesis --- that we must all respect authority simply because it is Authority, is an example of this mode of "thinking."
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playbook 16 Aug. 2012
By Kindle Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I loved the book. It is essentialy the playbook of the Conservatives. She basically says that the redistribution of wealth starting in the Roosevelt era and with the Unions, has allowed the middle and lower classes more free time and money. There existence is no longer dependant on prayer and have fallen into moral disolution. Her solution is to redistribute the wealth back to the rich, let religon have a larger role in government, and allow big business to buy back governemnt. This will leave the middle class diminished and dependant on God and the 1%.
So far it seems to be working...So much for the Pursuit of Happiness.
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