Sandin, Robert T.
Civilizations in Conflict? (Spring 2000)
A while back I read an editorial in the New York Times which struck me as a constructive evaluation of the situation in the Balkans. The Times identified the author as a University Professor at Harvard, a former director of security planning at the National Security Council, and the author of the book reviewed here. I thought this was someone whose work I needed to know, so I bought the book.
Character is dead, its time has passed, writes James Davison Hunter, after his wide-ranging examination of the condition of moral education in this country. It is a serious and earnest judgment. Hunter does not think it proper to speak of a "crisis" in moral education. For two centuries, he notes, it has been said that we are in a moral crisis, so there is nothing special about our time. The fact is, however, that the unfolding of our moral culture resists all human efforts to change it, oppose it, or manage it. What we can say is that "America in the twentieth century witnessed a profound transformation in its moral culture, and this transformation has significant consequences for the moral socialization of the young."
The examination of religious belief as a cause of international conflict, particularly in the Middle East, and of its possible role in the recent terrorist attacks on New York and America, is often hindered by misinformation and confused thinking. The religion of Islam is all too simplistically blamed. Fundamentalist Christians make irrelevant pronouncements about God’s punishment of American wickedness and greed. Neither approach to the problems we face is productive.
Reflections on David Riesman (1909-2002) (Summer 2002)
In an Op-Ed article in the New York Times for May 19, Orlando Patterson, Professor of Sociology at Harvard, celebrated the life of David Riesman, once his own mentor, who died on May 10 at the age of 93. He called Riesman “The Last Sociologist,” not only mourning his death but also complaining that he died “discarded and forgotten by his discipline.”