Moral Man and Immoral Society is 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. Part of the Library of Theological Ethics series.
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Customer Reviews for Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics
Review 1 for Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics
Very sobering,... as if it was written yesterday
Date:February 21, 2011
What struck me was that this book was written in the 30s, even before the war and the full impact of the Nazi ideology or the issues with communism could be fully foreseen, yet it largely predicted the outcome. Niebuhr was clearly astute. It makes it clear for any generation, including ours, that we should be reserved about our expectations of political movements.
This book will probably be helpful to people who are wondering about how change happens in society and the limitations of personal idealism in achieving such goals, be that rationalism, education or ethics. Niebuhr examines how each of these can lead to an undesirable outcome in the context of a group, society, and between nations. It challenges the religious idealist as much as the rationalist.
It is the first book I have read that has given me some idea why many seemingly well meaning idealists have failed to improve anything and in many cases, have largely left the situation unchanged or worse. Though perhaps cynical in this respect, a thoughtful individual who wants to make the world better should reflect on the cost of effecting change and what sort of resources he should martial before he charges into the arena.