2nd Edition

Life and Death Decisions
The Quest for Morality and Justice in Human Societies

ISBN 9781138808881
Published November 12, 2014 by Routledge
180 Pages

USD $52.95

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Book Description

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.

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

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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.


'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