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Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentmentby Phil Zuckerman
Synopses & Reviews
“Silver” Winner of the 2008 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award, Religion Category
Before he began his recent travels, it seemed to Phil Zuckerman as if humans all over the globe were “getting religion”—praising deities, performing holy rites, and soberly defending the world from sin. But most residents of Denmark and Sweden, he found, don't worship any god at all, don't pray, and don't give much credence to religious dogma of any kind. Instead of being bastions of sin and corruption, however, as the Christian Right has suggested a godless society would be, these countries are filled with residents who score at the very top of the "happiness index" and enjoy their healthy societies, which boast some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world (along with some of the lowest levels of corruption), excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, outstanding bike paths, and great beer.
Zuckerman formally interviewed nearly 150 Danes and Swedes of all ages and educational backgrounds over the course of fourteen months. He was particularly interested in the worldviews of people who live their lives without religious orientation. How do they think about and cope with death? Are they worried about an afterlife? What he found is that nearly all of his interviewees live their lives without much fear of the Grim Reaper or worries about the hereafter. This led him to wonder how and why it is that certain societies are non-religious in a world that seems to be marked by increasing religiosity. Drawing on prominent sociological theories and his own extensive research, Zuckerman ventures some interesting answers.
This fascinating approach directly counters the claims of outspoken, conservative American Christians who argue that a society without God would be hell on earth. It is crucial, Zuckerman believes, for Americans to know that “society without God is not only possible, but it can be quite civil and pleasant.”
Are lawyers, by their very nature, agents of the state, of capital, of institutions of power? Or are there ways in which they can work constructively or transformatively for the disempowered, the working class, the underprivileged?
Lawyers in a Postmodern World explores how lawyers actively create the forms of power which they and others deploy. Through engaging case studies, the book examines how lawyers work within and for powerful institutions and provides suggestions--both general and practical--for ways in which the practice of law can be made to work with and for the powerless.
Individuals chapters address such subjects as the contradictions of radical law practice; legal work in South Africa; the economics and politics of negotiating justice; feminist legal scholarship and women's gendered lives; the overlapping worlds of law, business, and politics; theories of legal practice; and how lawyers are constitutive of gender relations.
Contributing to the book are Maureen Cain (University of West Indies), Yves Dezalay (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), Martha Fineman (Columbia University), Sue Lees (University of North London), Doreen McBarnet (Wolfson College, Oxford), Frank Munger (SUNY, Buffalo), Wilfried Scharf (University of Cape Town), Stuart Scheingold (University of Washington), David Sugarman (Lancaster University), and Sally Wheeler (University of Nottingham).
About the Author
Phil Zuckerman is associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He is the author of Invitation to the Sociology of Religion and Strife in the Sanctuary: Religious Schism in a Jewish Community.
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