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Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life Paperback – May 13 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New edition edition (May 13 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520205685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520205680
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #611,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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Habits of the Heart is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how religion contributes to and detracts from America's common good. An instant classic upon publication in 1985, it was reissued in 1996 with a new introduction describing the book's continuing relevance for a time when the country's racial and class divisions are being continually healed and ripped open again by religious people. Habits of the Heart describes the social significance of faiths ranging from "Sheilaism" (practiced by a California nurse named Sheila) to conservative Christianity. It's thoroughly readable, theologically respectful, and academically irreproachable. --Michael Joseph Gross

Review

""Habits of the Heart is, rare among works of scholarly origin, an outspoken and even emotional plea for attention to an argument, and a danger. Its power is in the passion of its analysis, the vision of us . . . narrowing the gap between the inordinate rewards of success and the not less inordinate punishments for failure, in economic terms, in the society."--"Los Angeles Times

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on Feb. 10 2003
Format: Paperback
HABITS OF THE HEART is a tour de force whose insights into America are as relevant today as they were nearly twenty years ago when the book was published. It was hailed at that time as an instant classic of sociology, and compared to such influential works as MIDDLETOWN and THE LONELY CROWD. If anything, its insights are even more pertinent now.
The subtitle "Individualism and Commitment in American Life" is the main trope guiding the book, a bipolar perspective that neatly describes the American inability to reconcile the "utilitarian individualism" of Hobbes' "war of all against all" as exemplified in the liberal economic philosophy that grew up with America, with the "expressive individualism" of Whitman and Emerson which developed as a reaction to (in Henry James'' words), the "grope of wealth." The final chapter which elucidates "Six American Visions of the Public Good" describing them as three pairs of conflicting visions: "The Establishment versus Populism," "Neocapitalism versus Welfare Liberalism" and "The Administered Society versus Economic Democracy" is the best example of this dualist view of America, but as Bellah and his fellow authors describe it, these competing visions often hold as many similarities as differences.
Specifically, from the latter 19th century until the depression both The Establishment and Populists recognized there was and needed to be a moral component in American public life. The Establishment side was represented Andrew Carnegie's "Gospel of Wealth," while on the Populist side were economic socialists such as Eugene Debs. The mores of the that time, de Toqueville's "habits of the heart," were still moralistic, still partaking of the ideal of the legacy of Jefferson's freeholding citizen even capitalism shook America off its foundations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Sept. 7 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is about the inevitable conflict between American Individualism and the fact that humans are by nature social. We hunger for relationship yet we want it only on our terms. Bellah and his team of reseachers take on the enormous task of interviewing people from all over the country and the results of these interviews are presented factually and then analyzed. Whether one agrees with the book's conclusions or not, the interviewees speak for themselves, and they speak for a majority of Americans today who are often torn by conflicting authoritative messages and motives from without and within. This book is a marvelous and sometimes unsettling mirror into contemporary American society.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Isaac Cohen on Aug. 12 2000
Format: Paperback
This book may not be very rigorous as a piece of social science--other Amazon reviewers have complained about this lack--but the material, interviews with Americans in different groups provides much insight into what Americans think about and how their lives are intertwined with institutions of politics, education, religion, and community. As such the book is highly readable and accessible to the average, college-educated reader and thought provoking as well.
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Format: Paperback
I think Steve Seim's review is excellent. The book is a famous statement of an editorial point of view, namely the communitarian claim that individualism has led to the incoherence of Americans' religious and moral claims. But like so many books, the authors vigorously dissemble to pretend they're scientifically reporting the kind of objective news you'd find on page 1, not in the editorial section. In this sense, the book is not substantially different from the kind of pseudo-science we've come to expect from sociologists, who, after conducting some interviews and handing out some loaded surveys, tell us "what's really going on" with the "modern American woman" or "Generation X" or, in this case, the "modern [misguided] liberal American." I, for one, view such work as social criticism vital to our society, and it makes thoughtful reading, but it is not social "science."
Considering this book represents more a kind of punditry than research, despite its claims, please consider reading the most famous response to the book, the chapters from Jeffrey Stout's "Ethics After Babel" devoted to the book. Stout, in one instance, close-reads one of the interviews, in which a guy is asked what's important to him, and whenever he talks about "being good" and "being honest," the interviewers grill him "but why? but why?" until after many replies, he finally says something like "it's good for me" so the authors end the interview and conclude he's a rabid individualist. They did not, for example, explore whether he has a rather rich concept of personal honor, which seems a more accurate way of describing his answers up to the point they choose to end on.
In any case, reading both this book and Stout, you're in a good position to come to your own conclusions.
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Format: Paperback
HABITS OF THE HEART is a tour de force whose insights into America are as relevant today as they were nearly twenty years ago when the book was published. It was hailed at that time as an instant classic of sociology, and compared to such influential works as MIDDLETOWN and THE LONELY CROWD. If anything, its insights are even more pertinent now. It endures because it wrestles with America's eternal contradictions. Given the persistence of these contradictions and their cynical exploitation by those in power over the past two decades, it remains as fresh and compelling as the day it was published.
The subtitle "Individualism and Commitment in American Life" is the main trope guiding the book, a bipolar perspective that neatly describes the American inability to reconcile the "utilitarian individualism" of Hobbes' "war of all against all" as exemplified in the liberal economic philosophy that grew up with America, with the "expressive individualism" of Whitman and Emerson which developed as a reaction to (in Henry James'' words), the "grope of wealth." The final chapter which elucidates "Six American Visions of the Public Good" describing them as three pairs of conflicting visions: "The Establishment versus Populism," "Neocapitalism versus Welfare Liberalism" and "The Administered Society versus Economic Democracy." But because they are dualistic does not mean they are exclusive categories. As Bellah and his fellow authors describe it, these competing visions often hold as many similarities as differences.
Specifically, from the latter 19th century until the depression both The Establishment and Populists recognized there was and needed to be a moral component in American public life.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
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