Archives For Reinhold Niebuhr

Quote of the Day:
“Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.”
– Reinhold Niebuhr, Theologian
born on this day, 1892

Poems of the Day:
Four Poems Read by the Poet
By Adam Zagajewski
(Happy Bday to the poet, born 6/21/1945)
Kindle Ebook of the Day: 
The Storm: A Novel
by Frederick Buechner – $2.99!!!
(Frederick Buechner bases his novel The Storm on Shakespeare’s melancholy last play, but adds some distinctly 20th-century twists of his own.)
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The Wake Up Call – June 21, 2014


Tom Vanderbilt Reviews 3 New Books
on Suburbia and Culture for BookForum

If, as Conley contends, the Protestant ethic, which valued “thrift over consumption, work over leisure, and meritocracy over social connections,” gave way in the 1950s to the ethos of bureaucratic capitalism, which emphasized “teamwork, compromise, and fealty,” in the latest sociological era, the age of Elsewhere, the midcentury tensions have been resolved: “Leisure is work and work is leisure. Consumption is investment. A tax-deductible home equity loan is savings. And the salience of social connections does not indicate nepotism but rather social capital and entrepreneurial skill totally consistent with meritocratic ideals.” But there are costs: “the fragmentation of the self, not to mention alienation and anxiety among today’s professional classes—those Americans who earn lots of money but need to work for it.”

Why should such free-floating anxiety exist among people in seemingly comfortable positions? One hears of executives being constantly uprooted in a job market rife with downsizing. Parents worry that their careers are not allowing them to spend enough time with their children. No one feels as if they have any time. But Conley points out that the facts tell a different story: Fewer Americans moved in 2000 than did in 1950. The percentage of people logging more than ten years with large firms has increased. This generation of fathers, he observes, “spends more time with their children than any in recent history.” As for the time squeeze, a study has found that higher-income women, even when they work the same number of hours as those earning less, report feeling more pressed for time. As Conley notes, “when you can earn more per hour, the opportunity cost of not working feels greater and the pressure is all the more intense.”

The frenetic, self-regulating regimen of one’s inner time manager is the chief culprit, Conley argues, in the forever-harried state of postindustrial labor. For the first time in history, the more people are paid, the more they feel they must work. Income inequality has risen absolutely, but particularly within the upper echelons of the professional classes. “From any link in the chain,” he writes, “it looks like everyone else is rushing away.” So the presumed leisure time that money might buy merely breeds anxiety over how much the moment is costing.

Read the full review:

Dalton Conley.

Hardcover: Pantheon, 2009.
Buy Now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]

Julia Christensen.

Hardcover: MIT Press, 2008.
Buy Now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $24 ] [ Amazon ]

THE NY REVIEW OF BOOKS asks what we can learn
from Reinhold Niebuhr about History and Foreign Policy

In a democracy the people need to be informed if they are to fulfill their duties as citizens. May we now be entering a renewal of participatory American democracy? If we are not, we shall be in even greater trouble than we are now.

The fatalism of Bacevich’s final sentence about Americans being firmly set on self-destruction is deeply disturbing, as no doubt it was intended it to be. Since his book was published, the presidential election has shown how intelligent use of the Internet can bring together an enthusiastic and disciplined body of volunteers and bring young people in large numbers back into politics. There is now talk of using the Obama campaign’s online network to foster support for his legislative program and presidential initiatives. Brilliant and essential political analysis by writers like the three reviewed here could be a useful part of such initiatives.

Bacevich suggests that the acknowledgment of the truth of the following Niehbuhr principle would be a useful standard for election or appointment to public office: “The whole drama of history is enacted in a frame of meaning too large for human comprehension or management.” That might also be a good start for a renaissance of knowledgeable democratic participation.

Read the full review:

The Irony of American History.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Introduction by Andrew Bacevich

Paperback: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]

The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
Andrew Bacevich.

Hardcover: Metropolitan Books, 2008.
Buy Now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]

Frances Richard Reviews Two Recent Books
on the Direction of Photography as Art.

Photography is haunted by distortions, or what philosophers and media theorists call “simulacra”–those devils or replicants that blur authentic essence and mere appearance. Pictures in general trigger these anxieties, Plato having bequeathed to Western culture a fear that overidentification with images will dull perception of a spirit that eludes sight. Photography, however, has been especially seductive, seeming to offer unmediated access to how things “really” are. As Martin Jay explains in Downcast Eyes, his marvelous history of antivisual themes in French thought, “Because of the physical imprinting of light waves on the plate of the camera…it might seem as if now the oeil was not trompé in Daguerre’s new invention. But doubts nonetheless soon arose.” By the 1840s, it was clear that even apparently direct imprinting could not rout the ghost of simulacra. “Yet as late as the Dreyfus Affair,” Jay notes, “it was still necessary to warn the naïve viewer against concocted images.” Photographs could be retouched or faked through double exposures–as when, in 1899, the newspaper Le Siècle printed composite pictures of enemies in the Dreyfus Affair appearing friendly. Technologies have drastically evolved, of course. Nevertheless, according to new books by Michael Fried and Fred Ritchin, warnings about photography’s uncertainties are no less necessary.

Read the full review:

Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before.
Michael Fried.

Hardcover: Yale UP, 2008.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]

After Photography.
Fred Ritchin.

Hardcover: Norton, 2008.
Buy Now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $24 ] [ Amazon ]