By James Q. Wilson
James Q. Wilson is considered one of America's preeminent public coverage students. for many years, he has analyzed the altering political and cultural panorama with readability and honesty, bringing his knowledge to endure on all aspects of yankee executive and society. it is a choice of fifteen of Wilson's such a lot insightful essays-drawing on thirty years of his observations on faith, crime, the media, terrorism and extremism, and the old school inspiration of "character." Readers of each political persuasion will come clear of this quantity with a brand new knowing of the way American politics and tradition have advanced during the last half-century. those essays usually are not "the grumpy phrases of a conservative who cannot be reconciled to the realities of up to date American life," Wilson writes. quite, they're immediately speak from a painstaking empiricist and consummate social scientist who believes in American exceptionalism. American Politics, Then & now's a compelling portrait of a loved country.
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By now the reader may be entertaining the suspicion that I have somehow arranged for the examples of defective intellectual work to be those that reach conclusions of which I do not approve and for the examples of successful intellectual work to be ones that reach conclusions of which I do approve. Needless to say, I think my summary is fair and nonpartisan, but for the skeptics let me add one additional example in which research tending to support a policy view I like has not yet reached a level of clarity and consistency that would lead me to conclude that the matter is settled.
The growth of charter schools and educational voucher programs, all generated by state and private activity, is exceptional testimony to this preoccupation with character. R The most important change in how one defines the public interest that I have witnessed over the last twenty years has been a deepening concern for the development of character in the citizenry. An obvious indication of this shift has been the increased prominence of such social issues as abortion and school prayer. A less obvious but I think more important change has been the growing awareness that a variety of public problems can be understood, and perhaps addressed, only if they are seen as arising out of a defect in character formation.
Rather than searching American history for some device by which the philosophy of rights and the desire to moralize can be brought into some Grand Synthesis, it is better to view that history as alternating periods in which one and then the other impulse becomes dominant. The Puritan desire for the cooperative commonwealth and the moralizing community reappears in the settlement house movement of the turn of the century, the anticompetitive “business association” movement of the 1920s, the continuing desire to find a formula by which criminals may be rehabilitated, and the endless hopes we entertain for education.