Alan Wolfe

Alan Wolfe is the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College and is writing a book on why liberalism matters.

Recent Articles

Faith in the Center?

John DiIulio's fascinating book takes religious moderation too far.

Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America's Faith-Based Future by John J. DiIulio Jr. (University of California Press, 310 pages, $24.95) Despite all the talk of America's culture war, this country has been blessed by an absence of bloody religious conflict; we've been spared anything like Europe's Thirty Years' War, and our most serious internal war involved race, not religion. To be sure, some of the clashes between Protestants and Catholics toward the end of the 19th century evoke a Kulturkampf , but they do not even come close to the troubles characteristic of the countries from which so many of our Protestants and Catholics originally came. John DiIulio, the University of Pennsylvania professor who was the first head of President George W. Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, believes Americans need reminding of the many ingenious ways this country avoided past divisive religious conflicts, so we can overcome current divisions in a sensible and moderate...

For America

Anti-Americanism By Jean-François Revel, translated from the French by Diarmid Cammell, Encounter Books, 280 pages, $25.95 On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense By David Brooks, Simon and Schuster, 352 pages, $25.00 Jean-François-Revel, author of the best-selling Without Marx or Jesus , wrote Anti-Americanism to respond to the sentiment, fairly widespread in Europe, that the United States has become a force for evil. I admire him for taking on the challenge. The United States, to be sure, does things in ways that Europeans ought to criticize, from our reliance on the death penalty to our love affair with handguns to the failure of George W. Bush to win international support for the war in Iraq. But the contrarian in me wants Revel to succeed. Even when European critics of the United States are right, there is often an air of superiority in their tone that betrays the fact that their societies are not quite as flawless as their...

Liberalism and Catholicism

In the years immediately after World War II, American liberals split apart over their attitudes toward communism. Those who called themselves progressives rallied around the presidential campaign of Henry Wallace in 1948, despite evidence aplenty that the Communist Party was disproportionately calling Wallace's shots. Others, including the founders of Americans for Democratic Action, fashioned themselves into anti-communists and lined up behind Harry Truman. For all the differences they demonstrated over communism, however, postwar liberals, as the Notre Dame historian John McGreevy has pointed out, were more unified in their hostility toward the Catholic Church. Three of the countries that had been fascist--Spain, Italy, and Vichy France--were Catholic. Pius XII, recently described as "Hitler's Pope" in Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII by John Cornwell, failed to help the Jews. Father Coughlin was a notorious anti-Semite and demagogue. Catholic colleges and universities...

State of the Debate: The Moral Meanings of Work

How should we think about work -- as just a necessary burden that we'd like to cut to a minimum or as the organizing focus of our lives? A number of new books about work, culture, and family suggest that we need to work for more than bread alone.

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism , second edition with a new introduction (Basic Books, 1996). Shirley P. Burggraf, The Feminine Economy and Economic Man: Reviving the Role of Family in the Post-Industrial Age (Addison Wesley, 1997). David M. Gordon, Fat and Mean: The Corporate Squeeze of Working Americans and the Myth of Managerial "Downsizing" (Free Press, 1996). Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work (Metropolitan Books, 1997). John M. Hood, The Heroic Enterprise: Business and the Common Good (Free Press, 1996). Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, Kellogg's Six-Hour Day (Temple University Press, 1996). Sanford Jacoby, Modern Manors: Welfare Capitalism Since the New Deal (Princeton University Press, 1997). Robert E. Lane, The Market Experience (Cambridge University Press, 1991). Myron Magnet, The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties' Legacy to the Underclass (Morrow, 1993). Edmund S. Phelps,...

Whose Body Politic?

The boundaries between public and private are murkier than ever.

T he year 1992 will be remembered as the time when the great Republican coalition, forged in that crucial year 1968, collapsed. In retrospect, it is suprising that white working-class males, cowboy libertarians, southern bourbon elites, religious fundamentalists, Yankee WASPS, midwestern farmers, and Orange County nouveaux riches ever got along at all. Their current disarray reflects the loss of "macro" issues that once provided unity, such as the death of communism and practical failure of Reaganomics. But what increasingly divides this once robust national coalition are also "micro" issues that reach into the heart of the most intimate and private decisions a person can make, including abortion, sexual preference, and family values. The Republican Party is bedeviled by deep philosophical differences over what ought to be public and what should be preserved as private. Conservatives who believe that the government has no business telling a man what to do with his money go out of...