By George M. Marsden
Basic Books, $26.99, 264 pages
George Marsden is professor of history emeritus at Notre Dame University. He has written an influential book for other scholars and, if he’s persuasive, policy makers. ||The Enlightenment is, according to Marsden, the ideal of a consensus based on rationally derived, shared humanistic principles congenial to broadly theistic Protestant heritage. Marsden identifies the 1950s as the decade when concerns that the consensus might be failing were described by prominent social thinkers such as John Dewey and Ayn Rand. The Twilight of the American Enlightenment chronicles the foundations of the Enlightenment-era synthesis of science and religion, the social disruptions of the 1960s and ‘70s, and the backlash by religious conservatives now known as the culture wars. Marsden’s further discusses American pluralism and how to restore the consensus by incorporating religious diversity into public life.
Reviewed by Norman West
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