What is the state of contemporary American morality? From their original conception in Christian scripture to their assimilation into Western culture, the 'Seven Deadly Sins' – lust, greed, envy, pride, and all the rest – have guided human morality, steering human behavior and psychology away from evil and toward a full embrace of the good. But their hold on modern life is increasingly tenuous. Indeed, one may observe that these days, deadly sin is far more common and more commonly practiced than its virtuous counterparts – humility, charity, kindness, industriousness, and chastity. Without greed, there is no economy; without anger, no politics; and without pride and envy, surely less motivation and competition would exist.
James D. Wright carefully examines the complexities and ambiguities in modern society in the context of the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues. Are we all lost souls, condemned by our immoral deeds, or are the trappings of older sin deteriorating? Is it time, finally, to reconsider the classifications of evil and good?
Wright uses each chapter to consider how the social sciences have operationalized each 'sin', how they have been studied, and what lessons have been learned over time. He reviews recent trends and contemplates the societal costs and benefits of the behaviors in question. Lost Souls emerges, then, as a meditation on contemporary sin, concluding that the line between guilt and innocence, right and wrong, is often very thin.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Greed: The Basis of Capitalist Society
Chapter 2. Gluttony: The Sociology and Economics of Overconsumption
Chapter 3. Lust: The Sexualization of Society
Chapter 4. Sloth: The Besetting Sin of the Age?
Chapter 5. Anger: I’m Mad as Hell and I am Not Going to Take it Anymore
Chapter 6. Envy: Keeping Up with the Joneses, the Smiths, and Everyone Else
Chapter 7. Pride: Does Self-Esteem Solve Everything? Anything?
Chapter 8. Concluding Observations
James D. Wright is an author, educator, and the Provost's Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology at the University of Central Florida. He has published 28 books and research monographs, and more than 300 journal articles, book chapters, essays, reviews, and polemics.
James D. Wright’s Lost Souls is a remarkable reflection on the shifting moral landscape of contemporary America; wherein, the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy and pride have seemingly been transformed into virtuous ideals. It is a must read for those of us grappling with the moral foundations of the Trump era.
Darren E. Sherkat, Southern Illinois University
James D. Wright gives a clear view and analysis of contemporary culture and morality with insights in every chapter. His writing is so engaging – and often funny – that you don’t realize how much you are learning about sociological theory and social history until after you have finished a chapter. Every chapter illuminates Biblical injunctions and modern norms, social science research and its interpretation, and contemporary society.
Murray Webster, Professor of Sociology, University of Charlotte
This erudite and fascinating book summarizes a broad swatch of sociological research as it shows convincingly that what some might regard as sinful may also be socially necessary.
Arne L. Kalleberg, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill