America at Century’s End

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Alan Wolfe, the editor of this impressive collection, is the Dean of the Graduate Faculty at the New School for Social Research and recipient of the prestigious C. Wright Mills Award for WHOSE KEEPER? SOCIAL SCIENCE AND MORAL OBLIGATION (1989). Struck by the generational changes in all aspects of American life, Wolfe has gathered together a series of essays that reflect these changes in a wide variety of social experience: the family, the economy, the media, education, culture, race relations, and, of course, politics.

In the opening section Judith Stacey and Kathleen Gerson explore the conflicts of commitment in postmodern family life in connection with issues turning on gender, kinship, and class. Gary Alan Fine and Jay Mechling discuss the changing nature of childhood, and Claude S. Fischer notes that despite an increasingly cosmopolitan world “place” and neighborhood are still important concepts in family life.

Economics and politics dominate the second unit of essays. Fred Block writes about the United States and its trade rivals, and Katherine S. Newman ponders the cultural anxiety promoted by a weakening domestic economy. Ruth Milkman, Daniel Halle, and Frank Romo examine the problems of labor and management, the changing social contract, and insensitivity on all sides to social and technological change. Problems of race and immigration are explored by Bart Landry and Ruben G. Rumbaut. Sharon Zukin rounds things off with a grim...

(The entire section is 435 words.)