From "How to Re-Moralize America" by Francis Fukuyama in the summer issue of the Wilson Quarterly:
What are the chances of a moral renewal? What are its potential sources? . . . Cycles have occurred before. In both Britain and the United States, the period from the end of the 18th century until approximately the middle of the 19th century saw sharply increasing levels of social disorder. Crime rates in virtually all major cities increased. The rate of alcohol consumption, particularly in the United States, exploded. But then, from the middle of the century until its end, virtually all of these social indicators reversed direction. Crime rates fell. Families stabilized, and drunkards went on the wagon. New voluntary associations -- from temperance and abolitionist societies to Sunday schools -- gave people a fresh sense of communal belonging.
The possibility of re-moralization poses some large questions. Where do moral values come from, and what, in particular, are the sources of moral values in a postindustrial society? This is a subject that, strangely, has not received much attention. People have strong ideas about what moral values ought to be and where they ought to come from. If you are on the left, you are likely to believe in social equality guaranteed by a welfare state. If you are a cultural conservative, you may favor the authority of tradition and religion. . . . With the exception of a few discredited theories, sociologists and cultural anthropologists haven't had much to contribute.