Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics

Moral Man and Immoral Society A Study in Ethics and Politics Famous philosopher and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr here illustrates the struggles of individuals in modern disagreeable society

  • Title: Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics
  • Author: Reinhold Niebuhr
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 276
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Famous philosopher and theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, here illustrates the struggles of individuals in modern, disagreeable society.

    One thought on “Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics”

    1. Niebuhr has survived to the present day with many advocates - President Obama cited him as a foundational thinker, former FBI Director Comey used him as a twitter alias (and wrote about him for his dissertation), this newer edition of Moral Man and Immoral Society has an exuberant foreword by Rev. Cornel West. This is one of his earlier works - the prose is a touch clunky, and the economic analysis is more orthodox Marxist than I'd remembered. But his core points - about the differences between [...]

    2. What Niebuhr is selling* with this bad boy from 1932: It pains me to have to say this, but it's Cluebat time for all you arm-linked and well-intentioned but tunnel-of-love-visioned LOLcat lightweights, awash in pacifist dreams and tiptoeing about waiting for the Kingdom of God to answer all of your pinned-and-needled hopes. That happy realm lies in the occluded future; the present is anointed in Original Sin. It's a dark, hard, cold world, the more so as we lose ourselves within the collective†[...]

    3. This is Niebuhr at his finest (though most dense and packed with stream-of-consciousness). Insights into human nature, society, the influences on our choices from moral, ethical, spiritual, religious, political, economic and social perspectives, etc are plentiful. The prose is tough - and, in truth, at points, impenetrable - but ultimately the cost is worth it to access so many critical guidelines for more effective individual and collective living.Among the incredibly abundant piercing insights [...]

    4. There were some good points raised in this book – but for the most part I find the style overly verbose - an overuse of words. I agree with the main prognosis of the individual (good) arrayed against society (conformist – evil). There are a lot of obvious statements – like society being resistant to change.I feel the proletariat is romanticized – who will be their leader – to be a leader one must rise above the proletariat level. In Hitler’s rise to power he was supported by all leve [...]

    5. Very interesting and skeptical view of individual vs. group morality, and would be very useful for one attempting to enact positive change in society.

    6. A difficult book but essential reading for anyone wanting to engage in the conversation about how to effect improvement in the human condition. He judges society and any corporate body to be patently incapable of making moral decisions. In light of recent events, I don't know that any American today would disagree with him. It's also nice to be reminded of a time when religious thinkers had nuanced intellectual positions. I'm sure these thinkers exist today, but the only opinions I hear from rel [...]

    7. The final chapter was focused on what I was hoping to read all along, looking at how we reconcile ethics with politics and idealism with realism, without ignoring either. The previous 9 chapters were certainly thought-provoking, however. It was interesting, too, to come across the completely unexpected reference to Moral Man, Immoral Society in Paulo Freire's and Miles Horton's spoken book, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change. This put a lot of what Niebuhr [...]

    8. Niebuhr brought forth a great idea on the moral problem by contrasting the ethical attitudes of the 'Privileged' and 'Proletarian' classes. This is one of his most important explanations in MM&IS. Another solid suggestion in the book is learning to harmonize the animal nature of man with the spiritual needs of man in order to achieve justice and social progress. These two cases serve as pillars for every other premise in the book.Niebuhr's writing implies that he had little room in his hypot [...]

    9. The following is part of my writeup onMoral Man and Immoral Societyfrom my undergraduate thesis on John Dewey: In Moral Man and Immoral Society, Niebuhr claims that Dewey underestimates the place of coercion and violence in human interactions. Niebuhr doubted that the social sciences could follow the natural sciences through experimentalism, since they were tied so carefully to various biases and predilections. From his perspective, interest-free social science was an oxymoron. In his 1932 explo [...]

    10. Abstract and verbose. Certainly not as concise as Irony.(I've got something like 145 highlights, I don't know if any of them are valuable outside of their context). It is written at a very interesting time, 1932, when Communism was in Russia but had not shown the full horror of Stalinism, fascism was in power in Italy, but not in Germany, nor had it shown the full horror of Nazism. Niebuhr analyzes the struggles between particular and general interests, individual and collective power, and the p [...]

    11. Published in 1932 "Moral Man and Immoral Society" continues to speak with wisdom and clarity to the issues humans face. While individuals may have a certain sense of morality, society exists on a very different plane. Hypocrisy and self-preservation stand at the heart of human society, and humans are often compromised by it.While not everything in this book transcends time, it is amazingly prescient about the political troubles we face. One of the issues he handles head on is our desire to see o [...]

    12. The last three chapters Moral Man are so dense and, stylistically, almost stream of consciousness, that it really required a Herculean effort to slog through them. It was like finishing a marathon on an uphill grade. I probably took longer to get through those last three chapters than all the preceding chapters combined. Ultimately I had to abandon any hope of being able to evaluate each idea as it presented itself and resign myself to just taking one word after the other in the hopes that somet [...]

    13. Niebuhr's central insight is that personal morality and group mentality are incompatible and that the latter will always trump the former. This means that social change can only be achieved through political means and by economic coercion. Ethics and education may change individual minds but they will never overwhelm the inherent selfishness of the collective will. Thus, patriotism is used to justify evil ends, making the individual feel part of a select and morally exempt group. It's a pessimis [...]

    14. Brilliant. Has an uncomfortably Enlightenment-era view of reason, but his social critique and his analysis of the tension between ethics and politics is so spot-on. I wonder at some of his conclusions in the final chapter, but they're unsettling and challenging in ways I found helpful. In particular, the book problemitized my growing, and largely naive, faith in liberal progressivism as the solution to most major social problems. While I haven't quite abandoned the liberal ideal, Niebuhr has giv [...]

    15. A study from 1932, which is very relevant now, on how good individuals can combine into bad collectives. It has insights into the value of being a political realist. Neibuhr was a theologian, but he was no utopian.

    16. This book was instrumental in my development as an adult human being. It is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

    17. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 -- 1971) was an American Protestant theologian and social thinker whose works continue to be read. The Library of America is about to publish a volume of Niebuhr's writing, including four books and a collection of essays, sermons and other works which has been provided to me for review. Reinhold Niebuhr: Major Works on Religion and Politics: (Library of America #263) I am in the process of reading and reviewing the four books separately before reviewing the LOA volume.At l [...]

    18. Niebuhr, unlike his fellow liberal theologians, makes a place for radical evil and the necessary response of force to stop it. He had been a pacifist previous to the rise of Nazi Germany. Long before the rise of the religious right and the Moral Majority, the liberal church had been politically active and dominated the religious response to political, social and economic issues. It was largely socialist and pacifist. Niebuhr's move to a just war paradigm was a break with the liberal church. He d [...]

    19. This giant of 20th century American liberal Protestant theology set the terms for discussion for at least two generations. His thought was clear headed, bold and original, and he was a realist who never danced around an idea or conviction. Reinhold Niebuhr rejected Evangelicalism's anti-intellectualism, employing instead the long-standing disciplines of Protestant (and sometimes Catholic) biblical criticism so disdained by Christian conservatives of the late 20th and early 21st century.Moral Man [...]

    20. Niebuhr wrote this in the early 1930's, between the World Wars, but it reads like it was written this morning. His analysis explodes off the pages with penetrating relevance for today. "We live in an age in which personal moral idealism is easily accused of hypocrisy and frequently deserves it. It is an age in which honesty is possible only when it skirts the edges of cynicism. All this is rather tragic. For what the individual conscience feels when it lifts itself above the world of nature and [...]

    21. If you want to understand the current political climate of hatred toward political/social conservatives If you want to understand the thinking behind the phrase "white privilege" If you want to understand Black Lives Matter read Niebuhr who writes:"The physical sciences gained their freedom when they overcame the traditionalism based on ignorance, but the traditionalism which the social sciences face is based upon the economic interest of the dominant social classes who are trying to maintain th [...]

    22. In retrospect it was pretty naive of me to dive into this sucker as a layman, and without any context no less. It's worth the effort but I ran out of library renewals and ended up powering through the second half at a quicker clip than I normally would gonna revisit this after I've recovered (and done some more background reading, because holy fuck I never appreciated how little I know about ethics or politics in general).

    23. "THERE ARE IDIOTS. Look around." --Larry SummersEconomics, in its standard formulation, assumes rational markets, built from a base of rational actors. Summers, though a sexist jerk, was absolutely right to question that assumption, at least for purposes of dealing with real markets. Which brings us to Niebuhr. Moral Man, his 1932 bombshell, assesses the place of ethics, reason, religion, and persuasion in human societies. Niebuhr is as forceful as Summers, somewhat less of a sexist jerk, and fo [...]

    24. Looking BackReview the 20th Century and you’ll find plenty to criticize. World wars. Genocide. Massive technological advances. For every slice of progress, it seems there’s an equal and opposite setback. Two steps forward. Two steps backward.With the benefit of hindsight, it can be surprising to discover how theologians viewed the world at the turn of the 20th Century.With the many advances and the Industrial Revolution, Christians of a certain stripe believed God would usher in a utopian st [...]

    25. I have never been a fan of Niebuhr. But I'd never actually read him. Only secondary treatments. Having been influenced by Yoder and Hauerwas, his Christian realism never set well with me. That it could be claimed by neo-cons and liberals both in the last 13 years of American political life, didn't help.But I found myself more persuaded than I expected. Maybe it is because I've grown more pessimistic and cynical? I began the book in August when the world appeared to be going to hell (that I was b [...]

    26. One of the most influencing books on my thought on human nature. I'm not sure the book itself can be considered one of the greats, but it spoke to me in a way that resonated with my way of thinking more than other more classic texts have. Both a Christian theologian and an intellectual fluent in classical philosophy, Niebuhr's elaboration on human nature and its interaction with society brought together many different ideas and opinions I myself had been grappling with for some time. It crushes [...]

    27. I loved H. Richard Niebuhr's "Christ and Culture," so I decided to pick up this book written by his brother. Reinhold Niebuhr taught for many years at Union Theological Seminary in New York in the areas of ethics, theology, and political philosophy. The ethics and the political aspects are front and center as seen by the subtitle of the work. However, the theological aspect is kept to a minimum only appearing in glimpses by means of "religion," "Christianity," as well as other words. Nevertheles [...]

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