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

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Westminster John Knox Press, Jan 1, 2001 - Religion - 284 pages
22 Reviews

Moral Man and Immoral Societyis Reinhold Niebuhr's important early study in ethics and politics. Forthright and realistic, it discusses the inevitability of social conflict, the brutal behavior of human collectives of every sort, the inability of rationalists and social scientists to even imagine the realities of collective power, and, ultimately, how individual morality can overcome social immorality.

The Library of Theological Ethics series focuses on what it means to think theologically and ethically. It presents a selection of important and otherwise unavailable texts in easily accessible form. Volumes in this series will enable sustained dialogue with predecessors though reflection on classic works in the field.

  

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Review: Moral Man and Immoral Society: Study in Ethics and Politics (Library of Theological Ethics)

User Review  - Megan - Goodreads

Dense, remarkably prescient. It has helped me square a lot of my own internal ethical conflicts. Read full review

Review: Moral Man and Immoral Society: Study in Ethics and Politics (Library of Theological Ethics)

User Review  - Christina "6 word reviewer" Lake - Goodreads

Individual morality cannot overcome social immorality. Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Man and Society The Art of Living Together
1
The Rational Resources of the Individual for Social Living
23
The Religious Resources of the Individual for Social Living
51
The Morality of Nations
83
The Ethical Attitudes of Privileged Classes
113
The Ethical Attitudes of the Proletarian Class
142
Justice through Revolution
169
Justice through Political Force
200
The Preservation of Moral Values in Politics
231
The Conflict between Individual and Social Morality
257
Index
279
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

Walter Lippmann once called Reinhold Niebuhr the greatest mind America had produced since Jonathan Edwards. It was fitting, then, that Niebuhr died at home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in the town where Edwards had preached. He was born in Wright City, Missouri, and his father was a German immigrant who served those German-speaking churches that preserved both the Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) traditions and piety. After seminary in St. Louis, he studied for two years at Yale University, and the M.A. he received there was the highest degree he earned. Rather than work for a doctorate, he became a pastor in Detroit, where in his 13 years of service a tiny congregation grew to one of 800 members. Part of his diary from those years was published in 1929 as Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic. During that time he began to attract attention through articles on social issues; as he said, he "cut [his] eyeteeth fighting [Henry] Ford." But the socialism to which he was attracted soon seemed naive to him: human problems could not be solved just by appealing to the good in people or by promulgating programs for change. Power, economic clout, was needed to change the systems set up by sinful groups, a position expressed in his 1932 book, Moral Man and Immoral Society. By this time Niebuhr was teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he spent the rest of his career. Niebuhr's theology always took second place to ethics. He ran for office as a socialist, rescued Paul Tillich from Germany, became a strong supporter of Israel, gave up pacifism, and was often too orthodox for the liberals, too liberal for the orthodox. His The Nature and Destiny of Man is one of the few seminal theological books written by an American. In it he reiterates a theme that led some to place him in the Barthian camp of Neo-orthodoxy: the radical sinfulness of the human creature. The human condition as illumined by the Christian tradition was always the arena in which he worked.

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