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Moral Freedom

The Impossible Idea that Defines the Way We Live Now


Alan Wolfe (View Bio)
Hardcover: W. W. Norton & Co., 2001; Paperback: The Free Press, 2002.

Moral Freedom

"Wolfe's study has the potential to change the ways we think about society and morality." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Wolfe's method...strips away ulterior agendas to give us a look at the raw materials of the American conscience." — New York Observer

"Wolfe is right that [the search for moral freedom] is a revolution...a very American revolution." — Newsweek

"Wolfe is not content merely to describe sympathetically our principles and virtues. He also mounts a spirited defense of them, complete with frequent broadsides aimed at critics on the right and left." — The Weekly Standard

"Wolfe brings us close to a diverse group of Americans seeking lives of value and virtue. His finely drawn portraits engage our minds and open our hearts." — Jerome Groopman, author of THE MEASURE OF OUR DAYS

"Once again Wolfe has fashioned the results [of his research] into a seamless weave of narrative and interpretation, deftly alternating quotes and commentary." — The American Prospect

"No sociologist now writing is able to capture and describe American manners and morals better than Alan Wolfe. Many readers will look at what Wolfe calls Moral Freedom, and they will decide it's really Moral Narcissism. But whether your reaction is sanguine or despondent, you will experience that ping of recognition. This is the world around us." — David Brooks

"In the midst of this darkness [about morality], Alan Wolfe has been lighting a candle.... Through hundreds of in-depth interviews and anecdotal evidence, [he] attempts to show that what unites Americans is much greater than what divides us — even on morality." — Sunday Star–Ledger (New Jersey)

"In MORAL FREEDOM: The Impossible Idea that Defines the Way We Live Now, Wolfe continues his intriguing exploration of our collective character... Wolfe presents an engaging array of voices musing about honesty, professional and familial loyalty, politics, forgiveness, punishment, and the virtue of self-discipline.... Wolfe [is] an alert and knowledgeable social critic." — The New York Times Book Review

"An important study of the consequences of public life without the anchor of moral traditions.... Wolfe makes a persuasive case that the consequences of moral freedom are revolutionary." — Boston Globe

"Americans from all walks of life and with dramatically diverse voices speak here with urgency and passion.... Disturbing for some, provocative for all." — Booklist

"Alan Wolfe's powerful new work is a brilliant exploration of the everyday morality of Americans. In substance it demonstrates that, in spite of deep differences over means and sometimes goals, Americans nonetheless share a common moral philosophy, what he calls the principle of moral freedom, the ardently held view that individuals should determine their own view of the good life. In method, this work is another major step in the reemergence of sociology as moral science, one that fulfills the once and future promise of a discipline that is at once rigorously empirical yet remains deeply immersed in the complex moral issues that constitute real social life." — Orlando Patterson, John Cowles Professor of Sociology, Harvard University, and author of FREEDOM IN THE MAKING OF WESTERN CULTURE

"Alan Wolfe, a prominent public intellectual and sociologist of moderately liberal convictions, is fast establishing himself as our foremost chronicler of — and apologist for — the moral softening of America." — National Review

"Alan Wolfe displays perfect pitch in making sense of Americans' beliefs about good, evil, and the messy terrain in between." — Howard Gardner, author of INTELLIGENCE REFRAMED

"Alan Wolfe [is] a thoughtful and distinguished public intellectual.... In MORAL FREEDOM, Mr. Wolfe ask[s] Americans in eight communities what they think of when they hear the word 'virtue'.... Americans, he concludes, are not only moderate in economics and politics; they are moderate in morality.... They have begun a process that will make the 21st century 'the century of moral freedom,' in which, writes Mr. Wolfe, individuals 'will determine for themselves what it means to lead a good and virtuous life.'" — The Wall Street Journal

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