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A Brazilian American's Reflections on Faith, Culture, and Immigration
Urban Asia and Africa as Experiment
The most extensive urban demographic transitions ahead will take place in Africa and Asia. These transitions occur in regions where the majority of inhabitants remain trapped in vulnerable employment, which limits the capacities to plan, save, invest, and afford critical amenities, as well as limits the horizons of what is considered possible. Yet, the aspirations for mobility, security, consumption, and attainment are enormous. How can different rationalities and practices of everyday sociality be more effectively connected to the prevailing concepts informing formal political and policymaking projects? How can incommensurable facets of urban life be folded into each other as a matter of an enlarged political practice? There is no pre-existent map that tells us how to link these equally important dimensions of urban life. Thus, any effort to consider the relationship between them is by necessity an experiment.
"The first component of intelligence involves effective adaptation to an environment. In order to adapt effectively, organizations require resources, capabilities at using them, knowledge about the worlds in which they exist, good fortune, and good decisions. They typically face competition for resources and uncertainties about the future. Many, but possibly not all, of the factors determining their fates are outside their control. Populations of organizations and individual organizations survive, in part, presumably because they possess adaptive intelligence; but survival is by no means assured. The second component of intelligence involves the elegance of interpretations of the experiences of life. Such interpretations encompass both theories of history and philosophies of meaning, but they go beyond such things to comprehend the grubby details of daily existence. Interpretations decorate human existence. They make a claim to significance that is independent of their contribution to effective action. Such intelligence glories in the contemplation, comprehension, and appreciation of life, not just the control of it."—from The Ambiguities of Experience
In The Ambiguities of Experience, James G. March asks a deceptively simple question: What is, or should be, the role of experience in creating intelligence, particularly in organizations? Folk wisdom both trumpets the significance of experience and warns of its inadequacies. On one hand, experience is described as the best teacher. On the other hand, experience is described as the teacher of fools, of those unable or unwilling to learn from accumulated knowledge or the teaching of experts. The disagreement between those folk aphorisms reflects profound questions about the human pursuit of intelligence through learning from experience that have long confronted philosophers and social scientists. This book considers the unexpected problems organizations (and the individuals in them) face when they rely on experience to adapt, improve, and survive.
While acknowledging the power of learning from experience and the extensive use of experience as a basis for adaptation and for constructing stories and models of history, this book examines the problems with such learning. March argues that although individuals and organizations are eager to derive intelligence from experience, the inferences stemming from that eagerness are often misguided. The problems lie partly in errors in how people think, but even more so in properties of experience that confound learning from it. "Experience," March concludes, "may possibly be the best teacher, but it is not a particularly good teacher."
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents of other non-Western religions have become a significant presence in the United States in recent years. Yet many Americans continue to regard the United States as a Christian society. How are we adapting to the new diversity? Do we casually announce that we "respect" the faiths of non-Christians without understanding much about those faiths? Are we willing to do the hard work required to achieve genuine religious pluralism?
Award-winning author Robert Wuthnow tackles these and other difficult questions surrounding religious diversity and does so with his characteristic rigor and style. America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity looks not only at how we have adapted to diversity in the past, but at the ways rank-and-file Americans, clergy, and other community leaders are responding today. Drawing from a new national survey and hundreds of in-depth qualitative interviews, this book is the first systematic effort to assess how well the nation is meeting the current challenges of religious and cultural diversity.
The results, Wuthnow argues, are both encouraging and sobering--encouraging because most Americans do recognize the right of diverse groups to worship freely, but sobering because few Americans have bothered to learn much about religions other than their own or to engage in constructive interreligious dialogue. Wuthnow contends that responses to religious diversity are fundamentally deeper than polite discussions about civil liberties and tolerance would suggest. Rather, he writes, religious diversity strikes us at the very core of our personal and national theologies. Only by understanding this important dimension of our culture will we be able to move toward a more reflective approach to religious pluralism.
Arts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s
In this book, Bernstein explores the correctional, political, social, and aesthetic forces that prompted the rise of the “prison arts renaissance” of the 1970s. Bernstein also traces how, in turn, this movement inside prisons influenced American culture as the words and ideas of incarcerated writers, performers, and artists found their way to the Broadway stage, cinema, bestseller lists, and major museum exhibitions. Paradoxically, this movement was embedded in and informed by a cultural and political transformation taking shape inside America’s prisons at the precise moment when state and federal policy makers turned toward a “get tough on crime” approach. Bernstein addresses not only the ways in which incarcerated people living in this changing climate used writing, performance, and visual art while in prison, but also how the works they created influenced teaching, publishing, protest movements, and cultural life outside prison walls. Furthermore, a significant number of artists continued to teach or create meaningful works after they left prison. Given its timeliness as relates to public debate about American and international prisons, as well as Bernstein's evenhanded prose, this work will be useful for academics, students, and other readers interested in criminal justice, African American history, cultural history, and American studies.
Reality and Perception
Is America bitterly divided? Has America lost its traditional values? Many politicians and religious leaders believe so, as do the majority of Americans, based on public opinion polls taken over the past several years. But is this crisis of values real?
This book explores the moral terrain of America today, analyzing the widely held perception that the nation is in moral decline. It looks at the question from a variety of angles, examining traditional values, secular values, religious values, family values, economic values, and others. Using unique data from the World Values Surveys, the largest systematic attempt ever made to document attitudes, values, and beliefs around the world, this book systematically evaluates the perceived crisis of values by comparing America's values with those of over 60 other nations.
The results are surprising. The evidence shows overwhelmingly that America has not lost its traditional values, that the nation compares favorably with most other societies, and that the culture war is largely a myth.
The gap between reality and perception does not represent mass ignorance of the facts or an overblown moral panic, Baker contends. Rather, the widespread perception of a crisis of values is a real and legitimate interpretation of life in a society that is in the middle of a fundamental transformation and that contains growing cultural contradictions. Instead of posing a problem, the author argues, this crisis rhetoric serves the valuable social function of reminding us of what it means to be American. As such, it preserves the ideological foundation of the nation.
Between Past and Present
“If I were asked to recommend a single book that puts the vexed and emotionally charged question of the death penalty into an intelligible historical and contemporary political perspective it would be this one. The introduction sets the stage beautifully and the essays that follow allow readers to come at the problem from a variety of mutually reinforcing perspectives. It is a model for intellectually rigorous scholarship on a morally exigent matter.”
The attacks of September 11, 2001, facilitated by easy entry and lax immigration controls, cast into bold relief the importance and contradictions of U.S. immigration policy. Will we have to restrict immigration for fear of future terrorist attacks? On a broader scale, can the country's sense of national identity be maintained in the face of the cultural diversity that today's immigrants bring? How will the resulting demographic, social, and economic changes affect U.S. residents? As the debate about immigration policy heats up, it has become more critical than ever to examine immigration's role in our society. With a comprehensive social scientific assessment of immigration over the past thirty years, America's Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity provides the clearest picture to date of how immigration has actually affected the United States, while refuting common misconceptions and predicting how it might affect us in the future. Frank Bean and Gillian Stevens show how, on the whole, immigration has been beneficial for the United States. Although about one million immigrants arrive each year, the job market has expanded sufficiently to absorb them without driving down wages significantly or preventing the native-born population from finding jobs. Immigration has not led to welfare dependency among immigrants, nor does evidence indicate that welfare is a magnet for immigrants. With the exception of unauthorized Mexican and Central American immigrants, studies show that most other immigrant groups have attained sufficient earnings and job mobility to move into the economic mainstream. Many Asian and Latino immigrants have established ethnic networks while maintaining their native cultural practices in the pursuit of that goal. While this phenomenon has led many people to believe that today's immigrants are slow to enter mainstream society, Bean and Stevens show that intermarriage and English language proficiency among these groups are just as high—if not higher—as among prior waves of European immigrants. America's Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity concludes by showing that the increased racial and ethnic diversity caused by immigration may be helping to blur the racial divide in the United States, transforming the country from a biracial to multi-ethnic and multi-racial society. Replacing myth with fact, America's Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity contains a wealth of information and belongs on the bookshelves of policymakers, pundits, scholars, students, and anyone who is concerned about the changing face of the United States.
Millions have entered poverty as a result of the Great Recession's terrible toll of long-term unemployment. Kristin Seefeldt and John D. Graham examine recent trends in poverty and assess the performance of America’s "safety net" programs. They consider likely scenarios for future developments and conclude that the well-being of low-income Americans, particularly the working poor, the near poor, and the new poor, is at substantial risk despite economic recovery.
Delinquency and Modernity in Suburbia
Since the mid-1990s, the fast-growing suburb of Amherst, NY has been voted by numerous publications as one of the safest places to live in America. Yet, like many of America’s seemingly idyllic suburbs, Amherst is by no means without crime—especially when it comes to adolescents. In America’s Safest City, noted juvenile justice scholar Simon I. Singer uses the types of delinquency seen in Amherst as a case study illuminating the roots of juvenile offending and deviance in modern society. If we are to understand delinquency, Singer argues, we must understand it not just in impoverished areas, but in affluent ones as well.
Drawing on ethnographic work, interviews with troubled youth, parents and service providers, and extensive surveys of teenage residents in Amherst, the book illustrates how a suburban environment is able to provide its youth with opportunities to avoid frequent delinquencies. Singer compares the most delinquent teens he surveys with the least delinquent, analyzing the circumstances that did or did not lead them to deviance and the ways in which they confront their personal difficulties, societal discontents, and serious troubles. Adolescents, parents, teachers, coaches and officials, he concludes, are able in this suburban setting to recognize teens’ need for ongoing sources of trust, empathy, and identity in a multitude of social settings, allowing them to become what Singer terms ‘relationally modern’ individuals better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of modern life. A unique and comprehensive study, America’s Safest City is a major new addition to scholarship on juveniles and crime in America.