Final - 1 December 14, 2011 POL 419Dr. Danoff Bellah,...

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1 December 14, 2011 POL 419—Dr. Danoff Bellah, Habits of the Heart : Bellah and his co-authors recognize that reliance on individualism is making it increasingly difficult for Americans to express moral reasons for our social commitments and what we define as our motivations for living morally coherent lives. One of their main endeavors is to somehow renew America or to overcome the moral crisis that is consuming citizens, and therefore remedy why more and more of us doubt the trustworthiness of our institutions, our elected officials, and neighbors, and even our ability to live up to our own expectations. They provide a thoughtful criticism of American individuality by first discerning how Americans assert self-reliance as separate from just leaving home, and justify their departure from traditional religious communities to follow one’s own private faith. Furthermore, Bellah describes “lifestyle enclaves” brining together like-minded people in the same socioeconomic class, as the closest way individuals engage in community life. Bellah notes that individualism has been sustainable over time in the United States only because it has been supported and checked by other, more generous moral understandings. In times of economic crisis and social adversity, there is something missing in the individualist set of values, clouding the understanding of our interdependence. In the private realm of individualism, self-reliance is often a common characteristic that individuals assert as motivations behind specific choices. In their interviews with therapist Margaret Oldham, she described self-reliance as “taking responsibility for oneself”, while in contrast consumed with economic self-reliance, Brian Palmer noted, “I guess self-reliance is one of the characteristics I have pretty high up in my value system”. 1 In contemplating the motivations for self- 1 Robert Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, Steven Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 56.
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2 reliance, it is important to also discern if individuals believe life has a purpose or end. Self-reliance and independence are common notions found in the drive to get out in the world on your own. “Self- reliant and independent notions of the self show up prominently in precisely those families whose offspring report the greatest felt community between their parents and themselves”. 2 Americans describe coming of age in terms of breaking away from the dependency on parents and relying on themselves. Moreover, “in the eyes of these successful children of professionals without strong religious beliefs, parental love is narrowed to a reward for doing well”. 3
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Final - 1 December 14, 2011 POL 419Dr. Danoff Bellah,...

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