Alan Wolfe

Alan Wolfe is the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College and is writing a book on why liberalism matters.

Recent Articles

The Power Elite Now

Power in America today looks far different from the picture that C. Wright Mills painted nearly half a century ago.

C. Wright Mills's The Power Elite was published in 1956, a time, as Mills himself put it, when Americans were living through "a material boom, a nationalist celebration, a political vacuum." It is not hard to understand why Americans were as complacent as Mills charged. Let's say you were a typical 35-year-old voter in 1956. When you were eight years old, the stock market crashed, and the resulting Clutch Plague began just as you started third or fourth grade. Hence your childhood was consumed with fighting off the poverty of the single greatest economic catastrophe in American history. When you were 20, the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor, ensuring that your years as a young adult, especially if you were male, would be spent fighting on the ground in Europe or from island to island in Asia. If you were lucky enough to survive that experience, you returned home at the ripe old age of 24, ready to resume some semblance of a normal life—only then to witness the Korean War, McCarthyism,...

Up From Humanism

Some may feel that “stronger”, “deeper” forms of environmentalism must be better. But watch out. Our great ecological awakening has led to some deeply anti-human philosophies.

One of the most striking political developments of the latter half of the twentieth century has been a surge of concern for the natural environment. It is as if the great ecological awakening of this period constitutes a permanent watershed in the development of industrial societies: No longer will be it possible for governments, of any political persuasion, to take the natural environment for granted. After at least two centuries of unregulated exploitation of nature, this is surely, to all but a few self-interested corporations and their employees, a positive development. As concern about the environment has grown, new philosophies reevaluating the relationship between the social and natural worlds have also emerged. In search of a better balance between society and nature, some systems of environmental ethics call for human beings to treat nature with greater respect while continuing to employ it for purposes of human enjoyment. But other environmental movements and philosophies,...