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13 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An educated and thoughtful work.
This book is a well thought out and even treatise on the state of society today. Without the alarmist or angry overtones that infect many social perspectives and commentaries available. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the divisions of society today.
Published on March 25, 2001

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36 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Himmelfarb's Democratic Cures
"One Nation, Two Cultures" is the best work of cultural criticism and political philosophy by a social conservative in recent years. Himmelfarb argues that pathologies which resulted from the cultural revolutions of the 1960's may be cured by reinvigorated democratic institutions; civil society, the family, and religion. The thesis is not original, but the...
Published on April 17, 2001


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36 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Himmelfarb's Democratic Cures, April 17, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (Paperback)
"One Nation, Two Cultures" is the best work of cultural criticism and political philosophy by a social conservative in recent years. Himmelfarb argues that pathologies which resulted from the cultural revolutions of the 1960's may be cured by reinvigorated democratic institutions; civil society, the family, and religion. The thesis is not original, but the cogency of Himmelfarb's analysis, her historical insight, and her thoughtful meditation on the two cultures which now exist in the country make her book worthwhile. Those cultures are an elite, permisive and non-judgemental culture and a dissident, moral culture composed almost wholly of people who are religious.
Himmelfarb's analysis of the democratic institutions which might remedy the moral disorder she describes is cogent. She develops a typology of civil society proponents and prefers hard advocates to soft; she echoes Schumpeter's analysis of the decline of the family, and she analyzes religion's positive effects on citizen's morality thoroughly.
Himmelfarb is a historian. Her book consequently has a depth which is lacking in the policy writings of conservative scholars. Civil society, liberals and conservatives agree, needs strenghtening. But did you now that, as she points out, civil society was not in our political vocabulary until the 1980's?
Himmelfarb's meditation on the two cultures which have developed because of the cultural revolutions is similarly thoughtful. For instance, she notes that the gap between elites who are non-judgemental, permissive, and post-modern and a dissident, moral, culture which cuts across class and racial lines is not static. "Elites may provoke a reaction on the part of many who otherwise acquiesce in the values of a domination culture, (but) pushing the envelope may also have the contrary effect of inuring people to such excesses."
Criticisms of Himmelfarb may focus on her writings' ideology or its persuasiveness. Judging whether she comes out on the correct side, politically, on issues like single mother-hood is not simply a matter of comparing your beliefs with hers, but it is mostly that.
I take her least persuasive argument to be that we should legislate morality because we are constantly doing just that. First, the scope of her argument is greater than the evidence she provides--the civil rights legislation of the 1960's, the welfare system's subsidies for out-of-wedlock births, and no-fault divorce laws. Many laws outside the field of civil rights and family laws or can be neutral on questions of morality.
Second, only in the first case is there any real proof that morality has been legislated. Out-of-wedlock births are practical now, as a result of subsidies, but not regularly condoned by communites. No-fault divorce laws have not legitimated divorce, women who are divorcees have come to constitute a sizeable group with its own morality.
Finally, Himmelfarb's argument is most flawed in that it contradicts the unstated premise of Himmelfarb's book, which is that social disorders can be cured by democratic institutions and, without the state's involvement. Civil society can be a hard authoritaive collection of individiuals, families can be rebuilty without the state's intervention, and religion can be a guardian of mores, all without the use of the state by social conservatives.
Moreover, social conservatives will not succeed in creating allies in the culture war if legislating morality becomes their primary tactic. While there is no explict reason that they create allies, Himmelfarb's title seems to suggest that conservatives are not pleased with their dissident status.
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14 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Huge Contradction, December 23, 2006
This review is from: One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (Paperback)
There is something either profoundly naive or, more likely, duplicitous, in advocating the state take up the slack of moral vanguard in the face of a progressive assault on traditional morality. Like a good neo-con, there is nothing genuinely conservative about this argument. In essence, Himmelfarb only has one thesis, the same she presents in all her books: we need to bring back shame and moral condemnation. Practically, this means we need to be smug, as smug as the members of her little circle - the same circle that now has American boys fighting to implement Sharia law in the formerly secular Iraq. Why? Because this is the absurd argument that people of morality can make alliance against the western Left, and that the real divide is between traditional morality and progressive thought, whereas the real divide is between the west and the rest. We will always have more in common with fellow westerners, be they Marxists or atheists, than with Others.

There is no love of Christendom here, no grasp of the pulse of western civilization or the underlying culture of America, only an ongoing attempt to impose on the reader an either/or alternative that will appeal to the unimaginative. Read some Thomas Sowell instead. Gertrude and her apartment-dwelling NY friends really are the Reanointed.
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13 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An educated and thoughtful work., March 25, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (Paperback)
This book is a well thought out and even treatise on the state of society today. Without the alarmist or angry overtones that infect many social perspectives and commentaries available. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the divisions of society today.
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23 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberals Will love This Book, December 12, 2001
This review is from: One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (Paperback)
As conservative Judge Richard Posner pointed out in the New York Times Book Review (Dec 19, 1999), Ms. Himmelfarb unwittingly makes quite the opposite case from the one she intended to make, describing an American society that could easily impress an observer as being on its "moral uppers". This book should be read alongside Alan Wolfe's "One Nation After All" published a year earlier. Wolfe's book, based on hundreds of interviews conducted for the Middle Class Morality Project of the centrist Russell Sage Foundation, found that most Americans, both liberal and conservative, have developed a complex moral and theological style that holds fast to traditional values while embracing religious and cultural diversity. A better informed population is now more likely to substitute individual conscience and personal responsibility for blind acceptance of authority. The book concluded that the "culture war" theory of America was largely a fiction cooked up by right wing intellectuals and the news media --- which habitually portray the country in terms of stereotyped divisions over moral, racial, and social issues. Ms. Himmelfarb's thesis --- that we must all respect authority simply because it is Authority, is an example of this mode of "thinking."
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playbook, August 16, 2012
I loved the book. It is essentialy the playbook of the Conservatives. She basically says that the redistribution of wealth starting in the Roosevelt era and with the Unions, has allowed the middle and lower classes more free time and money. There existence is no longer dependant on prayer and have fallen into moral disolution. Her solution is to redistribute the wealth back to the rich, let religon have a larger role in government, and allow big business to buy back governemnt. This will leave the middle class diminished and dependant on God and the 1%.
So far it seems to be working...So much for the Pursuit of Happiness.
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13 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cogent, but Disappointing, February 2, 2002
By A Customer
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This review is from: One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (Paperback)
In this book, Ms. Himmelfarb shows that she is a political theorist. She makes cogent arguments about civil society and political institutions. However, I found the book very disappointing in its coverage of the more recent etiology of the two cultures: she says nothing of the legions of ultra-leftists now dominating academic, literary, and journalistic circles. She also neglects the rightward shift in American politics and the rise of the religious right since the Carter era. I also found her arguments long-winded and tiresome. This is a book written to impress academics, not to inform the general reader.
If you want political theory from de Tocqueville and since, this could prove worthwile. If you want to understand what really divides us as a people, read something else.
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4 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars short book, long winded, January 25, 2006
This review is from: One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (Paperback)
I read Himmelfarb's book hoping to gain some insight as to the "moral decay" that so many talk about...what I found was:

a) simplistic values and generalities overstated,

b) many "moral deficiencies" undiscussed, and

c) no solutions.

Her book reads like a long-winded essay that hopes to impress because it uses big words and has lots of footnotes to show she "did her homework." Unfortunately, she uses statistics selectively and only when they help her point (using the phrase "But statistics don't tell the entire story..." far too often). She also cuts references' contexts, so that her point is made (even if the reference is not quite on the same line of thinking).

After completing the book, I must admit that it's a wonderful thing to always be right. Had a black, single mother written this same book, it would never have been published. Connections help!
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10 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One Nation, Two Cultures - Review, December 5, 2004
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This review is from: One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (Paperback)
Some interesting points made, the author is too quick to draw a strong line connecting the "moral decay" of our society in part to non-traditional families. She focuses too strongly on the negative statistics associated with our changing family structure while under-stating the benefits (and statistics) that show how this individualism has allowed our country to prosper and which has provided women and minorities a world of opportunities which did not exist 50 years ago.
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One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution
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