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Healthy Conflict in Contemporary American Society

Book description

US citizens perceive their society to be one of the most diverse and religiously tolerant in the world today. Yet seemingly intractable religious intolerance and moral conflict abound throughout contemporary US public life - from abortion law battles, same-sex marriage, post-9/11 Islamophobia, public school curriculum controversies, to moral and religious dimensions of the Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street movements, and Tea Party populism. Healthy Conflict in Contemporary American Society develops an approach to democratic discourse and coalition-building across deep moral and religious divisions. Drawing on conflict transformation in peace studies, recent American pragmatist thought, and models of agonistic democracy, Jason Springs argues that, in circumstances riven with conflict between strong religious identities and deep moral and political commitments, productive engagement may depend on thinking creatively about how to constructively utilize conflict and intolerance. The result is an approach oriented by the recognition of conflict as a constituent and life-giving feature of social and political relationships.


'Jason A. Springs provides a timely reframing of our contemporary debates that have littered our political, religious, and social landscape with either an eager exclusion of the ‘other’ as extremist lost cases or through appeals toward some form of tolerant co-existence that mostly avoids any meaningful relationship across the divides. He wades into these broiling waters with the message that deep conflict will remain, in fact contemporary polarization will likely mark our discourse for decades to come, but this reality offers opportunity to practice a core set of basic democratic habits that may guide us away from this descending toward dysfunctional harm. Social health, he argues, depends not on denigrating the other or pursuing echo chambers, but on sustaining relationships that persist in carving qualities of imagination, a dose of empathic patience, and the courage to stay engaged with those who we find remarkably different and even offensive.'

John Paul Lederach - author of The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace and Professor Emeritus, University of Notre Dame, Indiana

'In a time of seemingly intractable conflicts, Jason A. Springs offers a thought-provoking analysis of what it takes to make headway in transforming those conflicts. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it will not be easy or necessarily pleasant. It requires honing our skills for listening, living with dissonance and irresolution, stretching our imaginations, and facing our deepest fears without succumbing to despair or cynicism. Springs gathers these insights from philosophers, activists, sociologists, religious studies, preachers, peace studies, and comedians to construct vital recommendations for how to proceed with the problems we face.'

Beth Eddy - author of The Rites of Identity: The Religious Naturalism and Cultural Criticism of Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts

'Jason A. Springs urges us not to stick our heads in the sand, but to confront unflinchingly, with imagination and courage, the conflicts that threaten to rend our way of life. Liberal tolerance isn’t the answer. Instead, ‘healthy conflict’ can be the basis for enduring social and political change. This is an important and timely book.'

Eddie Glaude - Princeton University

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