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The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil, ISBN-13: 978-0465031771



  • Format: PDF
  • Publisher: ‎ Basic Books (May 18, 2001)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • 336 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎ 0465031773
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0465031771


“Fascinating and disturbing.” — Wall Street Journal
For sociologist James Davison Hunter, the defining problem of contemporary society is moral education and character formation–or, rather, the lack of meaningful moral education and real character development. In Hunter’s view, the titular death of character is a result of the disappearance of the conditions that make moral education possible in the first place. It is a consequence of overwhelming historical forces that defy individual moral agency; multinational capitalism, pluralism, social mobility, contemporary media, and popular culture all play a role.Hunter understands the roots of moral education and character to be essentially social–involving the complex weave of social, familial, and institutional relationships that are the fabric of culture–and embedded in historical understanding, in shared traditions, and in collective memories. He is skeptical of current agents for moral education who come in the guise of developmental psychologists, neoclassical advocates (traditionalists), and communitarians. Arguing that contemporary American society is unwilling to pay the price associated with meaningful character renewal, he writes, “To have a renewal of character is to have a renewal of a creedal order that constrains, limits, binds, obligates, and compels…. We want character but without unyielding conviction…. We want virtue but without particular moral justifications that invariably offend…. We want decency without the authority to insist upon it.” –Eric de Place

About the Author

James Davidson Hunter is professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Virginia and author of Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (1987).


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