Thirty years ago, sociologist James Davison Hunter popularized the concept of culture war. Today, he sees a culture war that’s gotten worse—and that spells trouble for the future of the American experiment.
By ZACK STANTON, 05/20/2021 05:30 PM EDT
In 1991, with America gripped by a struggle between an increasingly liberal secular society that pushed for change and a conservative opposition that rooted its worldview in divine scripture, James Davison Hunter wrote a book and titled it with a phrase for what he saw playing out in America’s fights over abortion, gay rights, religion in public schools and the like: “Culture Wars.”
Hunter, a 30-something sociologist at the University of Virginia, didn’t invent the term, but his book vaulted it into the public conversation, and within a few years it was being used as shorthand for cultural flashpoints with political ramifications.
He hoped that by calling attention to the dynamic, he’d help America “come to terms with the unfolding conflict” and, perhaps, defuse some of the tensions he saw bubbling.