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The wilding of America : how greed and violence are eroding our nation's character /

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: St. Martin's Press, 1996
Series: Contemporary social issues
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When a gang of teens attacked a jogger in New York's Central Park in 1989, the press dubbed the crime wilding. With a fascinating twist of perspective, sociologist Derber maintains that the chilling anti-social mentality behind the offense is far more widespread than people believe, and reveals startling links between criminal wilding on the street, emotional wilding in families, economic wilding on Wall Street, and political wilding in Washington.

Review by Booklist Review

Sociologist Derber's wilding, "self-oriented behavior that hurts others and damages the social fabric," can arise from "excesses of community" (as in Bosnia), but in the U.S., it's "individualism run amok" as "the official religion of the free market increasingly sanctifies sociopathy." Derber traces economic, cultural, social, and political wilding: on Main Street, Wall Street, and in the global economy, on movie screens and college campuses, in the 1980s' "soft triage" of the poor and the Contract with/on America's "hard triage," with its "bell curve" rationalizations. Many Americans aren't wilders, but the dominant culture calls us chumps for caring about others. Restoring civil society, Derber urges, demands balancing "me" and "us," a "social market" including externalities, and a new vision of citizens' rights and responsibilities. Samuelson, a syndicated national columnist for Newsweek, recommends lower expectations and increased personal responsibility rather than stronger communities. Since World War II, he argues, optimistic notions of the ability of government and/or business to control the economy and solve every problem produced unrealistic (and inevitably unmet) expectations; the end of this "age of entitlement" generates our current angst. Samuelson's advice is familiar: balance the budget, raise the Social Security retirement age and tax or means-test more of its benefits, use the market to restrain Medicare costs, shift federal programs to states and cities, cut back affirmative action. Though there's not much new here, Samuelson's visibility and the popularity of his agenda suggest that his first book will circulate. --Mary Carroll

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Boston College sociologist Derber (Power in the Highest Degree) borrows the term ``wilding" from the notorious "Central Park jogger'' case‘where it referred to gang violence‘to encompass economic, political and social abuses based on greed, selfishness and violence. His broad-brush essay, commenting on recent phenomena from the S&L scandal to The Bell Curve to street violence, should interest both communitarians and left-wing social critics. Yes, America's culture of individualism, which has influenced the Menendez brothers as well as Republican government-shredders, can be pernicious, but Derber's suggestion that ``the wilding virus'' is both cause and consequence discounts factors beyond culture. Thus, while he suggests that we must rebuild cultural institutions such as schools, churches and families, his call for a ``social market'' that provides European-style benefits such as health care seems quixotic because it does not address the political reform that must come first. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Derber (sociology, Boston Coll.), first explored the "wilding" phenomenon in Money, Murder and the American Dream (Faber, 1992). While the term refers to random street violence such as the brutal beating of a Central Park jogger in 1989, Derber extends the definition to encompass such antisocial behavior as hate crimes, spousal abuse, premeditated murder of parents or children, and less violent acts committed for personal gain. Among the notorious examples are murderers such as the Menendez brothers, Susan Smith, and Rob Marshall (a successful businessman who arranged his wife's murder for her insurance), and junk bond king Michael Milken. Derber sees America's social fabric breaking down at an alarming rate as more people at all social strata pursue divisive and unattainable goals, become frustrated, and react in antisocial ways. He blames Republican social policies for making matters worse, especially by widening the gap between rich and poor, but he remains optimistic that we can stop the trend toward anarchy. His optimism is based on the numerous examples of openness, generosity, and moral idealism he sees as still prevalent in U.S. society. We need to build on the positive examples and thereby resurrect civil society, he notes. Although not everyone will embrace Derber's faith in the social sciences to bring this about, his message needs to be widely read and debated. Highly recommended for most libraries.-Gary D. Barber, SUNY at Fredonia Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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