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On CHARACTER/ Essays by James Q. Wilson (Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought) Paperback – January 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought
  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Aei Press; Expanded edition (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0844737879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0844737874
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is a very worthwhile collection of essays from the past 15 years by one of America's foremost social policy intellectuals, who, unlike many of his fellow social and political conservatives, is thoroughly fair and careful in his arguments. This book traces the emergence of Wilson's belief that strengthening personal character -- defined by him as empathy and self-control -- is a key component of solutions to the problems of crime, the schools and the family. Wilson points out that so defined, character is more a matter of the heart than the head, which is why he thinks over-intellectual approaches to the problems of our day have come up so short. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Elegantly written essays on elevating standards of behavior in today's world. Wilson (Public Policy/UCLA) is best known as a student of crime (Crime and Human Nature, 1985, with Richard Herrnstein; Thinking About Crime, 1975). His knowledge of why humans misbehave informs this group of speeches, articles, and reflections on character, by which he means good character. Empathy and self- control are major constituents of that virtue, which leads to consideration of one's neighbor without undue restrictions on one's own behavior. Wilson explores how American concepts of character were formed (via the Enlightenment) but not fired in the kiln of strong debate. He looks at government, schools, families, and biology as molders of character, and at crime, failed ethics, and arguments for the legalization of drugs as symptoms of character flaws. How can we be certain that America's youth, especially its young men, will emerge as 20th-century adults with 18th-century polish? Wilson can only guess, and he proposes a broad study of urban male children that could provide some helpful data. Labeled a neoconservative (although he demurs), Wilson pokes at liberals, sometimes with good humor, sometimes with contempt (he holds no brief for ``Palo Alto cocktail parties''). Filled with self- confessed ``gaping intellectual holes,'' the essays also occasionally show an appalling lack of empathy. For instance, in a discussion of democracy, Wilson says that the US ``functioned democratically (except for the denial of the vote to women and blacks)....'' That's quite an exception. A m‚lange of ideas, some provocative, written with grace, civility, and wit. But however appealing to readers, it presents no clear guidelines for forming character or public policy. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Sharpe on November 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I can't say enough about how important this book is for understanding the importance of social and family structures in the United States of yesterday and today. Wilson astutely points out the ways that social norms for behavior lowered crime rates in 19th century New York (despite what many might think) and even affect such small details as whether a car is left untouched in a crime zone (according to Wilson, studies show that many people will not touch a car until someone else vandalizes it first; then it creates a free-for-all in which the car will be stripped, showing that "group think" is a dangerous trend if left unchecked). On the other hand, group think can also be used for the good if moral voices in society can harness the tool of "peer persuasion" for the greater good (as was the case with the some of the more positive movements in U.S. history). This book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the basic psychology of society as a organism, or who wants to evaluate ways to make a positive difference in our nation. Outstanding!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F.K.Morley on September 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Q. Wilson was an American treasure. They don't make them like that any more.

That he isn't better known says too much about our society
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steven Fantina on June 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Political Scientist James Q. Wilson is undeniable a brilliant cultural commentator. Unfortunately, most of the essays in this collection move at a snail's pace and failed to fully engage me. I would have found it more beneficial if he had employed more anecdotal vignettes rather than utilize a broad, abstract approach in addressing social problems.
Most of this collection was previously released in other publications or delivered as speeches, and from what I have read of his work in the past, this selection is far from the cream of his crop.
Still the crepuscular presentation does not fully obliterate the smart insights conveyed among the included passages. At times it may require that readers dig deeply to hit pay dirt, but there are some scintillating nuggets buried within these pages.
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