Books: God, Women and the Power Effete

THE FEMINIZATION OF AMERICAN CULTURE by ANN DOUGLAS 403 pages. Knopf. $15.

Ann Douglas is a 35-year-old American literature scholar with a provocative thesis. It is that U.S. mass consumer culture was born about 150 years ago in the pious alliance of middle-class women and the liberal Protestant clergy of the Northeast. Expansionist, masculine America was also getting started at this time but, argues the author, the period was one of intellectual and spiritual decline.

Douglas reasons thus: the stern, rigorous theology of the Puritan fathers was eventually weakened by the less demanding beliefs of...

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