Commonplace Book #75

To release and destabilize not merely goods and fashions but “everything”–tradition, certainties, truth itself–was, for other Americans a source of fear and outrage.  Not until 1991, when James Davison Hunter’s book Culture Wars put  the title phrase on every op-ed page, did that unease acquire  a general name.  For the next decade the term served as a banner for partisans, a verbal crutch for journalists, and the focus of a flourishing industry among academic seeking to explain its novelty and dynamics.  In fact, cultural wars in which highly polarized moral values flooded into partisan politics had a long history in the American past.  But that did not make their effect in the age of fracture any less important.  They helped to mobilize conservative churchgoing Americans into new alliance and new political battles.  They split university faculties into feuding intellectual camps.  They stoked strident school board contests.  They made the fortunes of best-selling books.  Across the last quarter of the twentieth century, the emergent talk of fluidity and choice grew in tandem with contrary desires for centers and certainties, each drawing on the other’s energy.

Daniel T. Rodgers, Age of Fracture, 145.