This groundbreaking study explores the ways young Americans today understand right and wrong, how they think out their morality, and how they live it out. It describes contrasting ethical styles in the biblical, utilitarian, and personalist traditions of our culture; first, as they structured the conflict between mainstream and counterculture during the 1960s, and second, as they have shaped the transformation of these values in new religious movements since the early 1970s.
Coupling descriptive ethics with interpretive sociology, this study pursues biography and moral dialogue with sixties youth who participated in a charismatic Christian sect, a Zen Buddhist meditation center, and a human potential organization (est). It shows the significance of these movements for the adherents' changing ideas of their own identity; their relationships, sex roles, courtship, and marriage; and their politics and vision of society. It analyzes the cultural logic and the social location of their ideas, which break down, recombine, and find renewal in the course of conversion.