The American Quest for Redemption

In a nation born with a sense that it had a redemptive mission in the world, the urge to take what is bad and turn it into something good often turns obsessively inward. The results can be surprising.

More Stories from this Issue

America’s Prisons: The End of Second Acts?

Charles Barber & Shadd Maruna

The mass warehousing of convicts is a sign of America’s faltering belief in second chances. Considering how individuals atone for their crimes can help us restore rehabilitation as an ideal.

What Qualifies Someone to Write a ‘Self-Help’ Book?

Sarah L. Courteau

Feel free to help yourself: there is a booming market for self-improvement guides.

Star Wars: the Rise of Online Review Culture

Tom Vanderbilt

Online review culture — on sites like Yelp, Amazon, and IMDb — is dotted with black holes of bad taste.

How American Isolationism Would Make the World Less Safe

The Wilson Quarterly

Pulling back from America’s global commitments would amount to a “massive experiment.”

Hawaii’s unexpected role in American blues music

The Wilson Quarterly

The unlikely origins of the slide guitar.

Burning Encyclopedia Britannica

The Wilson Quarterly

Print encyclopedias once occupied a privileged cultural position — even if owners seldom consulted them.

Is the modern environmental movement too moderate?

The Wilson Quarterly

The folly of neo-environmentalism.

Are genetically-diverse countries more successful?

The Wilson Quarterly

Did genetic diversity play a decisive role in determining which lands would hit the economic jackpot?

Are drugs bought online more dangerous than drugs bought in person?

The Wilson Quarterly

Swallow at your own risk.

The wrong way to move people out of the ghetto

The Wilson Quarterly

Moving poor people to better neighborhoods has a surprising effect.

How soldiers got the right to a burial in a cemetery

The Wilson Quarterly

Until the Civil War, hasty burials on the battlefield were the norm.

There’s no 50/50 political split in America. It’s more like 35/25/40.

The Wilson Quarterly

A growing number of Americans don’t identify with either political party.

Has the patent outlived its usefulness?

The Wilson Quarterly

Patents used to protect intellectual property. Now they stifle innovation.

One-third of the world’s poor weren’t born poor; they fell into it

The Wilson Quarterly

One effective way to fight poverty: prevent people from falling into it.

Has congress surrendered its constitutional powers to the president?

The Wilson Quarterly

Congress has shirked its weighty constitutional responsibilities, says one former senator.

Does hearing a word like “wrinkle” cause you to walk like an old man?

The Wilson Quarterly

Social psychologists call it “priming,” and it’s a topic of much debate.

Kabul’s coming economic meltdown

The Wilson Quarterly

The Afghan economy isn’t strong enough to stand on its own.

The secret to early Jewish success: literacy

The Wilson Quarterly

Call it the Jewish Head Start.

The rewards of being wrong about nuclear war

The Wilson Quarterly

America’s Cold War wizards botched many predictions. But that was often for the better.

What’s the key to happiness? Ask Nicaragua’s garbage-pickers.

The Wilson Quarterly

Thwarting conventional wisdom, the impoverished of León report high rates of happiness. Why?

Study: when parents pay for college, students’ grades tend to slip

The Wilson Quarterly

Students whose parents help pay are also more likely to graduate.