Culture Wars in America
A Documentary and Reference Guide
by Glenn H. Utter
November 2009, 395pp, 8 1/2 x 11
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-35038-2
$96, £74, 84€, A132
eBook Available: 978-0-313-35039-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

In 2005, there were 30,694 gun-related deaths in the United States. Many believe this high toll is an avoidable tragedy. Others passionately argue that the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. Gun control is just one of the volatile issues that divides Americans and sparks culture wars across our land.

This comprehensive documentary report on the cultural and political state of the union explores the flashpoints of the debate over American identity and values.

Culture Wars in America: A Documentary and Reference Guide places the most hotly debated issues in American society in historical context. With this book in hand, the reader can more effectively evaluate the potential social and political significance of these important conflicts.

Americans have never found it easy to reconcile their differences, even while sometimes achieving a remarkable unity of purpose. Although we pride ourselves on pluralism, we struggle to find common ground on our most essential principles. Since the 1980s, events covered in this volume have increased the questioning of traditional religious values, continuing immigration and globalization, the liberalization of social mores, and differing understandings of the nation’s role in a post-Cold War world. Increased partisan conflict over these issues has dominated American domestic politics and policymaking. The primary source documents collected and analyzed here reflect all of these trends, while fairly representing the contending positions that shape our contemporary political reality.


  • Document groups are arranged topically for easy reference
  • Each group of documents is preceded by a headnote and followed by analysis
  • The book includes a Reader's Guide to the Documents and a timeline of key events and milestones
  • Sidebars explore interesting and significant events related to the various broad topics
  • A trove of resources are listed for further research and exploration
  • An introductory, context-setting essay, “Definitions of the Culture Wars: Historical and Contemporary,” provides background on the evolution of culture wars in the modern era
Glenn H. Utter is professor of political science and chair of the Department of Political Science at Lamar University, Beaumont, TX.


"Utter (political science, Lamar U.) brings together documents that represent different sides of several issues that have been important to the culture wars in American society: religion, abortion, stem cell research, the right to die, gun control and rights, immigration, sex education, homosexuality, gay marriage, and science and education. The documents illustrate both conservative and liberal positions on the issues, and include Supreme Court rulings, writings by advocates, acts, speeches, presidential statements, reports from organizations, and excerpts from books and magazines, as well as analysis of them. Historical issues like slavery and prohibition, and the global culture war concerning Christianity and Islam are included."—Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2010

"Utter has done a good job in selecting representative viewpoints, providing a short analysis for each document, and adding small pieces of related information through 'Did You Know?' sidebars. . . . Culture Wars in America is recommended for high-school, undergraduate, and public libraries." —Booklist, March 15, 2010

"A compilation of primary resources, this reference is divided into nine themed chapters, offering retrospective glimpses of America's defining late 19th- and 20th-century, as well as early 21st-century, domestic debates, like reproductive freedom and gay rights. Each chapter offers a balance of viewpoints, and each representative document is followed by a brief analysis of its relevance. Utter (Campaign and Election Reform) includes four to six relevant sidebars per chapter. Unfortunately, the book omits one of the most incendiary culture wars: the Mapplethorpe-NEA controversy, which had a huge impact on arts funding. A highly valuable...representation of America's modern and contemporary moral debates."—Library Journal, March 1, 2010

"A highly useful, holistic picture of the various issues."—School Library Journal, April 1, 2010

"This book could supplement comprehensive collections on cultural differences."—Choice, May 1, 2010

Documentary and Reference Guides

Expertly chosen primary source documents, analytical commentary, and comprehensive study resources present Americans grappling directly with complex social and political issues in ways that have had a deep and lasting impact on contemporary society.

Students often are unaware that hotly contested public debates have deep historical roots. Intended to allow readers to engage with history and discover the development of controversial social and political issues over time, the Documentary and Reference Guides series introduces such issues through carefully chosen primary source documents.

The documents analyzed in these volumes encourage critical thinking, offering fresh perspectives as they sweep away preconceptions and restore immediacy to debates that may have become stale. They encourage students to explore for themselves how important issues came to be framed as they are and to consider how contemporary discussion might advance beyond the assumptions and hardened positions of the past.


  • 50–100 primary source documents, topically and chronologically organized, including excerpts from legislation, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, manifestos, broadcast statements, such controversial writings as Thomas Paine's pamphlets and excerpts from the Federalist Papers, and personal writings, such as letters
  • 15–25 photographs
  • Accessible analysis sections and lively sidebars illuminating documents that are crucial to the subject, but relatively legalistic or technical
  • A Reader's Guide to the Documents and Sidebars, organized by subject, to enable readers to pursue particular lines of inquiry through more than one chapter
  • A comprehensive, annotated, general resources section supporting student research needs
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