Life and Death Decisions: The Quest for Morality and Justice in Human Societies, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Life and Death Decisions

The Quest for Morality and Justice in Human Societies, 2nd Edition

By Sheldon Ekland-Olson


180 pages

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Paperback: 9781138808881
pub: 2014-11-12
Hardback: 9781138808874
pub: 2014-11-21
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315750385
pub: 2014-11-12
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Issues of Life and Death such as abortion, assisted suicide, capital punishment and others are among the most contentious in many societies. Whose rights are protected? How do these rights and protections change over time and who makes those decisions? Based on the author’s award-winning and hugely popular undergraduate course at the University of Texas, this book explores these questions and the fundamentally sociological processes which underlie the quest for morality and justice in human societies. The Author’s goal is not to advocate any particular moral "high ground" but to shed light on the social movements and social processes which are at the root of these seemingly personal moral questions. Under 200 printed pages, this slim paperback is priced and sized to be easily assigned in a variety of undergraduate courses that touch on the social bases underlying these contested and contentious issues.


'The author shows the connections between debates surrounding the most contentious issues in many societies: abortion, assisted suicide, and capital punishment, among other topics. The discussions proceed from an ethical framework that is more assumed than argued for, but that approach does not stand in the way of readers' getting a deeply informed, well-organized set of perspectives. This is exactly the type of book that could motivate undergraduates to take seriously the most pressing social issues of the time. Summing up: Highly Recommended'J. H. Barker, Converse College, CHOICE Reviews

Table of Contents

1. A Moral System Evolves 2. The Early Moments and Months of Life: Should the Baby Live? 3. The Boundaries of Tolerable Suffering 4. Taking Life: Lynching and Capital Punishment Epilogue: Six Lessons Learned

About the Author

Sheldon Ekland-Olson joined The University of Texas at Austin after completing his graduate work at the University of Washington in Seattle and Yale Law School. He is currently the Audre and Bernard Rapoport Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts and serving as the Director of the School of Human Ecology. For five years he served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and then for eight years as Executive Vice President and Provost of the university. He has authored or co-authored several books and numerous articles on criminal justice, prison reform, and capital punishment. Widely recognized for his commitment to teaching undergraduates, he is the recipient of numerous teaching awards. His current interests are reflected in the book, Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides?; an exploration of how communities have gone about justifying the violation of universally held moral imperatives.

He is married to his best friend, Carolyn. They have two children, well grown. These children have produced seven grand children, all as it turns out, perfectly perfect.

About the Series

Sociology Re-Wired

This innovative series is for all readers interested in books that provide frameworks for making sense of the complexities of contemporary social life. Each of the books in this series uses a sociological lens to provide current critical and analytical perspectives on significant social issues, patterns and trends. The series consists of books that integrate the best ideas in sociological thought with an aim toward public education and engagement. These books are designed for use in the classroom as well as for scholars and socially curious general readers.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General

Preface and Table of Contents