Urban Bungle by Wilfred M. McClay

Book Returns

Urban Bungle

Wilfred M. McClay on Harvey Cox’s The Secular City

Not every anniversary is worth celebrating. But it seems a shame to let the fortieth year of Harvard theologian Harvey Cox’s most famous book, The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective (1965), pass without comment. For one thing, there was no more emblematic book of the 1960s, and like so much else from that era, it has insinuated itself into the culture thoroughly, even as the power of its arguments has been almost entirely exhausted. That being the case, there is a certain fascination in returning to the text itself, and attempting thereby to intuit the source of its electrifying influence during its day.

Travel back with me, then, back into those remote and bell-bottomed yesteryears, when the world was still green and new, and the sweet scent of revolution lingered in the air like the aroma of marijuana.

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Wilfred M. McClay holds the SunTrust Chair of Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and is the author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America (North Carolina) and A Student's Guide to U.S. History (ISI Books). He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

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