The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief

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Historian George Marsden offers us a kaleidoscopic view of the splintering of our nation’s moral fiber. Beginning with the relative solidarity of religious mores of the 1950″s, Marsden draws upon a progression of intellectuals, including but not limited to Arendt, Fromm, Riesman, Lippmann, Skinner, and Niebuhr. Marsden chooses this starting point at the dawn of mass media that ushered a generation into the turbulent 1960″s, and its aftermath, the jaded 1970″s. llThe rending of our two primary authorities, the autonomous individual and the scientific method, tear asunder the great debate we know as the Scopes Trial. From there a social erosion finds confirmation from the judicial branch with the banning of prayer in school and the legalizing of abortions. llMarsden spends only cursory words on the actual history of events, and thus reserves his focus for the forces at work that caused the mudslide of perceived moral decay; and how these forces entered politics for better or worse. Marsden presents the problem that “we cannot go back to either a secular enlightenment or a Christian consensus.” However, he leaves us in these uncharted waters without a detailed map to find a “more fully inclusive pluralism.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 264 pages
Publisher Basic Books
Publish Date 2014-Feb-11
ISBN 9780465030101 Buy this Book
Issue May 2014
Category History


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