Reflections on Four Decades of American Moral Experience
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 A broad yet thematically cogent collection of essays, previously published in Harper's and elsewhere, about critical cultural issues and their underlying moral considerations. In a colloquial style reinforced with appropriate academic insights, Marin (In a Man's Time, 1974, etc.) discusses issues such as education, the homeless, veterans, cults, poverty and welfare, and the need to reexamine the concept of secular humanism. Despite the even-tempered tone that he maintains throughout, Marin's conclusions are often blunt and surprisingly radical. For example, he finds little of redeeming value in the public schools, asserting that, by attempting to control adolescents' natural need to explore and grow, they actually end up isolating and spiritually warping them. He feels that Americans are particularly susceptible to the lure of gurus and cults because of the absence of community and the isolation of self. The problem of the homeless is exacerbated, according to Marin, by the fact that they are culturally associated with shit, while welfare systematically tears apart families and draws single mothers into an increasingly narrow circle of poverty. Marin addresses the difficulties of Vietnam veterans not only in terms of the individual but on a cultural level, claiming that the very society to which the veterans are expected to return and ``readjust'' has not itself examined the moral causes of the war and is thus unprepared to support its victims. Marin is adept at shifting between cultural critique and personal interview, and he often supplements an argument with the voices of those concerned in a particular debate. He also weaves several moral issues throughout the collection--the obligations to rebel against authority, to embrace joy as well as sorrow, to avoid solipsism while asserting the importance of the individual, and to allow everyone within a society to live as fully realized human beings. A creative, refreshingly unorthodox examination of American morality.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1995
ISBN: 1-883642-24-8
Page count: 265pp
Publisher: Steerforth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995