Dr. McClay holds the SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in the Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is the author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America (University of North Carolina Press, 1994), which received the 1995 Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians for the best book in American intellectual history. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and was designated one of the nation's outstanding educators in the Templeton Honor Rolls for 1997-1998.
Habits of the Heart was one of the publishing events of 1985, a widely acclaimed work of national self-examination by a team of four sociologists and a professor of philosophy, led by Professor Robert Bellah of the University of California at Berkeley. The book’s uncannily fortunate timing seemed to dovetail with the increasingly dour mood of the American intellectual world. Alas, Bellah et al.'s call for moral revival is little more than empty posturing and vague uplift, reminiscent of Norman Vincent Peale or Bruce Barton, with some Walter Rauschenbusch thrown in for good measure. . . .
There can be no question of the signal importance and influence of The Closing of the American Mind. Any future historian who proposes to explain the “culture wars” of the 1980s and 1990s will have to contend with the looming presence of Allan Bloom’s grand and gloomy tome—along with the words and works of the other “killer Bs” of the era, William J. Bennett and Saul Bellow— as one of the chief rallying points for the conservative side of that conflict, and particularly the conservative critique of higher education. It should be admitted at once that many of Bloom’s criticisms were not entirely new....