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This series of eight provocative essays examines why Americans have a penchant for going to extremes in their arts, popular culture, politics, social movements, and other aspects of life. Robert Schmuhl considers historical examples (the hunting of the buffalo in the West, Prohibition, business ventures in the Gilded Age) but concentrates on contemporary subjects, including the emphasis on what shocks the audience as entertainment today, tensions among specific groups, the decline of private life, and the excesses of news media coverage in the O.J. Simpson and Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky stories. Indecent Liberties explores the dangers and consequences of carrying fundamental American freedoms too far. In this environment, achieving a public good can get lost in a frenzy of private gain or a worthwhile idea can be pushed to unrecognizable boundaries, producing the opposite of its intended effect. When an attitude of “anything goes” takes hold, a sense of limits gets lost, and it is different to achieve harmony or a center that holds. Especially as we face a new century with talk of “hyperdemocracy” and “hypercommunications” common in intellectual circles, Indecent Liberties argues that seeking equilibrium should be a central objective for all Americans. To go to wretched excess can lead to “indecent liberties” and wretched results that throw the country off balance and endanger the future. This book asks questions about today and yesterday that require answers for tomorrow. This insightful analysis of a distinct American characteristic is for every reader concerned with America’s penchant for going to extremes in ways that produce debatable, even deplorable, consequences.
Acerca de Robert Schmuhl
Robert Schmuhl is the Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Chair Emeritus in American Studies and Journalism, University of Notre Dame. He is the author of eight previous books with the University of Notre Dame Press, including Fifty Years with Father Hesburgh: On and Off the Record (2016, 2018).
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