The Irony of American History

The Irony of American History

4.7 4
by Reinhold Niebuhr
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0226583988

ISBN-13: 9780226583983

Pub. Date: 05/28/2008

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

“[Niebuhr] is one of my favorite philosophers. I take away [from his works] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have to make

Overview

“[Niebuhr] is one of my favorite philosophers. I take away [from his works] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard.”—President Barack Obama
 
Forged during the tumultuous but triumphant postwar years when America came of age as a world power, The Irony of American History is more relevant now than ever before. Cited by politicians as diverse as Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Niebuhr’s masterpiece on the incongruity between personal ideals and political reality is both an indictment of American moral complacency and a warning against the arrogance of virtue. Impassioned, eloquent, and deeply perceptive, Niebuhr’s wisdom will cause readers to rethink their assumptions about right and wrong, war and peace.

 “The supreme American theologian of the twentieth century.”—Arthur Schlesinger Jr., New York Times

“Niebuhr is important for the left today precisely because he warned about America’s tendency—including the left’s tendency—to do bad things in the name of idealism. His thought offers a much better understanding of where the Bush administration went wrong in Iraq.”—Kevin Mattson, The Good Society
 
Irony provides the master key to understanding the myths and delusions that underpin American statecraft. . . . The most important book ever written on US foreign policy.”—Andrew J. Bacevich, from the Introduction

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226583983
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
05/28/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
198
Sales rank:
228,312
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

PREFACE
 
I. The Ironic Element in the American Situation

II. The Innocent Nation in an Innocent World

III. Happiness, Prosperity and Virtue

IV. The Master of Destiny

V. The Triumph of Experience Over Dogma
 
VI. The International Class Struggle

VII. The American Future

VIII. The Significance of Irony

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The Irony of American History 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
KellyJWhite More than 1 year ago
I picked this up as a requirement for a Foreign Policy class, and I could not be happier that it was assigned. Niebuhr provides an amazing insight into what makes America the country she is. He warns against the presupposition of assuming ourselves the champions of virtue and identifying our enemies as strictly evil. This is not to say that Niebuhr is anti-American; on the countrary he was a Cold Warrior who argued that communism was an immoral institution that had to be stopped. Rather, he warned that excessive hybris can lead to a deadly lack of self-awareness that can bring even the most righteuous individuals and nations crashing down. While America is not guilty of all the crimes the world thrusts on her, but she must be ever vigiliant against the evils that hide behind even the most well-intended virtue. To explain this ironic situation America- and man- is in, Niebuhr stresses the time tested truth of original sin. Evil is a very real part of any human soul. An idealistic yearning to be done away with evil does not make it so. Therefore we must always be on our guard, not only from our enemies, but from the temptations of power in ourselves. Niebuhr analysis Lincoln's second inaugural address to drive home the dual position we find ourselves in. While we cannot attempt to know the purposes of God, we must always be willing to do what is right, even at stagering costs. Yet the end does not eliminate the guilt of the means. Once we become more aware of this element in our actions, we will be better poised to carry out our righteuous intentions. On a side note, I am not a fan of the introduction. It seems to do exactly what Niebuhr warns against- a one sided view of our actions will lead us down a very dangerous path.
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