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Culture Wars

J. GRANT BAIN


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405183123.2011.x


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“Culture wars” most broadly refers to publicized conflicts between two or more major camps concerning various factions' attempts to define and control the social practices of their community, state, or nation. These debates and struggles often take the form of traditional versus emergent social policies or practices, and are most often a struggle between dominant and resistant groups. Although popularized in America by debates over education, practically any other large public debate – religious practices, family issues, abortion, civil liberties, etc. – falls under the umbrella term. The phrase “culture wars” originated in Germany during the late 1800s, during the public turmoil erupting from Otto von Bismarck's attempted unification of the German nation-state. Termed Kulturkampf in German, this early culture war pitted Protestants against Catholics for control of Germany's public education, and therefore of its future. Despite its broad applicability, “culture wars” still most frequently refers to debates over public and higher education, even if other debates are more sharply divisive. Though Allan Bloom (1987) signaled a resurgence of publicized culture wars over higher education, the term itself seems to have entered American popular consciousness through James Davison Hunter's Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America ( 1991 ). Hunter argued that the various cultural ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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