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UIS presentation will examine moral values in American politics

April 1, 2005

Synopsis of Hellfire Nation
by James A. Morone
-- Prepared by Steve Schwark, UIS professor of political science 

James Morone’s Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History offers a strikingly original account of American political development from the time of the Puritans to the present day. Morone contends that religious and moral movements have been behind almost all of the great developments in American history, from the American Revolution to abolitionism and the Civil War, Prohibition and the Progressive Era, as well as the modern Civil Rights Movement. He suggests that Americans are fundamentally divided on how to deal with many moral and social problems: “neo-Puritans” tend to blame the sinner and emphasize the importance of moral regeneration, while adherents of the “Social Gospel” view stress the importance of social and economic reform. Morone suggests that American politics and history follow a “moral cycle” in which the contrasting approaches are tried alternatively. As he observes, campaigns against “sins” typically become campaigns against “sinners”: e.g., ethnic groups, women, and minorities. In his words, “…broad and early democracy, wide social mobility, great immigrations, and a thousand religious sects. They add up to hellfire politics.”

SPRINGFIELD - James A. Morone, professor of political science at Brown University, will speak on “Hellfire Nation: Moral Values in American Politics” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 11, in the Studio Theatre, located on the lower level of the Public Affairs Center at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Part of UIS’ Public Policy Summit, which this year examines “Politics and Religion: Global and American Perspectives,” the program is free and open to the public.

Morone’s presentation will explain how fears of sin and dreams of virtue influence every political issue, from the war on terror to the war on drugs and from health care to foreign policy.

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Morone specializes in American politics, American political thought, urban politics, and public policy. In his most recent book, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History (Yale University Press, 2003), Morone contends that religious and moral movements have been behind almost all of the great developments in American history, from colonial times to the present. Hellfire Nation was chosen as a top 10 book of the year by Christianity Today and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His earlier book, Democratic Wish: Popular Participation and the Limits of American Government (Basic Books, 1990), was named a notable book of 1991 by the New York Times. He has written more than one hundred essays on politics, history, and social policy.

Morone is currently president of the New England Political Science Association and immediate past president of the Politics and History section of American Political Science Association. The Brown University classes of 1993, 1999, and 2001 chose him to receive the Barret Hazeltine Citation as the teacher who most inspired them. He has also been on the faculties at the University of Chicago, Yale University, and the University of Bremen.

The annual policy summit series is sponsored by the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership.  For more information, contact CSPL Interim Executive Director Barbara Ferrara at 217/206-6576.




    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.