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The De-moralization Of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values Paperback – January 30, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Himmelfarb argues for a return to the Victorian "virtues"?hard work, self-reliance and deferral of gratification?as a way of combating present social ills.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Himmelfarb, professor emeritus of history at CUNY and the author of several works on Victorian England, including most recently Poverty and Compassion: The Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians (LJ 7/91), here contrasts the Victorian "virtues" of respectability, self-help, orderliness, cleanliness, and obedience with today's vague concept of "values." The author debunks the popular perception of Victorians as repressed and materialistic. Instead, according to Himmelfarb, their "manners and morals" created a society that emphasized a strong family life for all classes and gave rise to a prosperous economy and the early feminist and social service movements. Furthermore, the influence of these virtues caused the incidence of illegitimate births and violent crimes to drop significantly and remain low until the 1960s. This provocative and important book is recommended for all academic and large public libraries.?Kathryn Moore Crowe, Univ. of North Carolina Lib., Greensboro
Copyright 1995 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: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (January 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679764909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679764908
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,146,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
At last, a readable, non-revisionist, and quite relevant discussion of the history of our "moral" system. Professor Himmelfarb is an excellent writer who makes history for nonhistorians come alive. I will never again read Keats, Shelley, Wells, or Mill without placing them in the historical context presented in this book. It is a relief to know that some realism remains in the debauched, angst-filled, revisionist halls of modern academia. This is a wonderful book!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By N. Cardon on September 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
Gertrude Himmelfarb provides an interesting and thought-provoking analysis of the Victorian Age. Her formidable logic, study, and sources enable her to break down the stereotypes of Victoria's Britain. In doing so, she constructs a far more realistic, fair, and honest portrayl of Victoria's reign. Do not be fooled, Ms. Himmelfarb does not simply lavish praise on the past and turn her nose up at modern culture; she provides a reasoned and valuable look at the two times.
This book should be read by anyone who seeks to understand where we have been and where we are going.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen on July 14, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was brought up to think of all things Victorian as stuffy, repressed and backward. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that far from being a social wilderness, Victorian England and America had much about them to admire.
The belief in God, country, indisputable truths, and loyalty to family were the hallmarks of the Victorians. It is regrettable that in our own time we have no constant stars to guide us as our recent forbears had.
The advances in medicine and science are all good. But it sad that with all these scientific advances, people feel more isolated and insecure than the erstwhile Victorians encumbered with all the constraints of that age.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By LD TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I gave it 4 stars because I enjoyed On Looking Into the Abyss more and the repetitious nature of this book did not hold my interest as intensely. Still there was a lot to absorb about Victorian society and how different the meaning of words and actions was then, compared to now. "Family values, Victorian values"-what were they at the time? Probably not what someone today tells you. And how do they differ from "virtues"? That is the underlying discussion of the book. Here are some quotes:

P.10 "It was in the 1880s that Friedrich Nietzsche began to speak of 'values' in its present sense-not as a verb, meaning to value or esteem something; nor as a singular noun, meaning the measure of a thing (the economic value of money, labor, or property); but in the plural, connoting the moral beliefs and attitudes of a society. Moreover, he used the word consciously, repeatedly, indeed insistently, to signify what he took to be the most profound event in human history. His 'transvaluation of values' was to be the final, ultimate revolution, a revolution against both the classical virtues and the Judaic-Christian ones. The 'death of God' would mean the death of morality and the death of truth-above all, the truth of any morality. There would be no good and evil, no virtue and vice. There would be only 'values'."

P.262 "Victorian moralists were of a different order. They did not presume to create a new set of values to be imposed upon society. They sought rather to sustain those traditional values that encouraged the individual to be virtuous. Responsibility, respectability, sobriety, independence were the common values of everyday life."
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By G. Reid on February 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Wisdom and temperance are two of the virtues that the author discusses. She says that wisdom is the virtue that most of us would most like to have and temperance is the virtue that is most needed by our society.

This book is a readable and relevant discussion of the history of our moral standards. The author is an excellent writer and she makes history come alive for the reader. She is the current authority on all aspects of the Victorian age. She writes adoringly of Victorian virtues, a set of rigid standards that spanned all classes, genders, economic classes, politics and religious groups.
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By JoAnn Collins on July 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is aimed more at academics than the public. Lots of statistics and high brow discussion.
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Frequently Bought Together

The De-moralization Of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values + On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society + The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments
Price for all three: $41.36

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