This book demonstrates how and why morality can result in extremist behavior and advocates what the author calls `critical idealism' as a way of life. The author discusses radical elements of the feminist, civil rights, and `medicalist' movements as examples of the contemporary drift toward intolerance and incivility and demonstrates how idealism can contribute to misleading and dangerous behavior in some cases but in the right hands can result in positive social action.
Still a believer in idealism, Fein (sociology, Kennesay State U., Georgia) warns of excesses that can lead to intemperate social policies, to overlaying templates of justice rather than considering the human elements involved, and to feelings of personal failure when high goals are not attained. He addresses such matters as messianic stickball, radical feminism and civil rights, and the Santa Claus betrayal. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)