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One Nation, After All : What Americans Really Think About God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, The Right, The Left and Each Other Paperback – February 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Few academics write as crisply as the sociologist Alan Wolfe, and even fewer are capable of making the penetrating insights that sprinkle the pages of this engaging study of suburban psychology. Based on 200 extensive interviews with middle-class Americans, Wolfe's study uncovers a striking tolerance. Americans, according to the author, can be quite harsh when judging their own behavior, but they exhibit a hands-off approach with others. (Wolfe also cites an exception to this rule: homosexuality.) Americans are not torn apart by any kind of cultural war, contrary to the claims of intellectuals on both the right and left. Instead, writes Wolfe, they are a practical people willing to accept social change. Forget the shallow opinion polls that appear every few days in the news. One Nation, After All comes closer to the real pulse of the American people than just about any other you will find. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The nation is divided between the pro-welfare, pro-choice Left and the pro-family, anti-Left Right, right? Wrong, says sociologist Wolfe, who argues that Americans agree on most issues.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014027572X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140275728
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,892,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Wolfe is professor of political science and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. The author and editor of more than twenty books, he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Harper's, and the Atlantic. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photo credit: Lee Pellegrini.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By not a natural on July 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alan Wolfe has been around forever, or so it seems. He has spent most of his career as a social commentator, adviser to high government officials such as President Bill Clinton, and occasional critic of social theory and the disappointments it sometimes produces.

Whatever the quality of his usual work, Wolfe has demonstrated in One Nation After All that it is unwise for bookish policy wonks to jump head first into empirical research. Though he directed a fairly large team of researchers with training in ethnography and survey research, Wolfe's lack of experience with empirical work led to the production of an ambitious, but ill-conceived and poorly executed piece of policy research.

Wolfe's serious limitations as a researcher were manifest throughout his book, but were most conspicuously troublesome in the fixed-response survey items he put to his middle class respondents. Exaggerating a good deal less than the reader might imagine, the items were of the sort that ask, "America is not the worst place on the world to live." The respondent then had five response categories, ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree, with which to offer his response. In the case of every item, much as the hypothetical one in the previous sentence, it was easy to predict how respondents would answer, and it was easy to see that their responses would exhibit a high level of homogeneity.

One gets the impression that Wolfe was not trying to find out if middle class America is, in fact, culturally homogeneous. Instead, he seemed determined to demonstrate that cultural homogeneity prevails.

It is commonplace for folks who have made it fairly big in a related line of endeavor to think they can jump into empirical research with both feet and produce good quality work.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ed Tracey on June 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
I agree with Denise's review that this book offers hope more than anything else. It is rather academic, and does make you want to put it down.
Nonetheless, in a world where TV commentators routinely portray Americans as "us and them" based on, say, their presidential vote, it is refreshing to read of alternative views. We are more similar than dissimilar - it just won't make for an electrifying show on "Crossfire" or "Hardball".
Professor Wolfe does have some unifying themese throughout the book, which does raise this from 3 to 4 stars in my view. Without them, it's not an easy read.
In fact, I'd recommend printing a condensed version of this. Say, a NY Times Sunday Magazine-length story or even a Reader's Digest one. The story it tells is that important.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tojagi on June 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
This review is in response to the negative reviews for this book.

A book should be judged on how well it achieves its goal, not on how well it can razzle-dazzle its readers with culture war rhetoric, complaints, and simplistic solutions. There are plenty of much more popular books for that. Consider, for example, Bernard Goldberg's 2003 book `Bias: A CBS insider exposes how the media distorts the news', currently with 863 customer reviews, or John Perkin's 2004 book, 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman' currently with 783 reviews.

The question that drew me to Alan Wolfe's book is how to account for what might be called `the Rush Limbaugh phenomenon.' How can so many authors and talking heads on radio and cable TV, draw so much attention to the same old issues year after year to address what we call `the culture wars'?

This book is a sociologist's attempt to get to the heart of the matter by probing the thoughts of average Americans. I think he does a great job of illuminating certain `hot spots' (such as gay marriage and `the mommy wars') and exposing most of the culture wars issues as lukewarm at best. Americans are in general agreement on issues concerning affirmative action, immigration, religion, patriotism, welfare, multicultural education and so on.

There is one line in this book that I believe nails the problem:

"There is little question, in other words, that America is furiously divided over the family. These divisions over the family do not take place between camps of people; instead, they take place within most individuals." (p110) - Alan Wolfe

It's a very subtle distinction in a society that values democracy above all. But I think it's a very important one.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
I had to read this book for my introductory Sociology class, and did so purely out of requirement. However, what I found was that I actually liked the book. It was excellently written and the research behind it was sound. It offers a glimpse into the American middle class that is both interesting and important. I look forward to reading more books by Alan Wolfe.
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9 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Denise the booklover on January 24, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One Nation After All is an excellent analysis for a fascinationg social research project focusing on the American Middle Class.
The study and subsequent analysis is a well thought out, detailed work packed with citations and comparisons.
As an added plus, the study shows that overall, the American Middle Class is basically a tolerant, reasonable group of people who prefer NOT to tell others how to live their lives.
For the uninitiated, research papers are writtin in the passive voice! This may require some adjustment on the part of the reader.
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