His entry begins:
Stephen Greenblatt's recent book, The Swerve, led me back to Lucretius' poem "On the Nature of Things". Greenblatt argues that this long lost classic from the last years of the Roman Republic was rediscovered for the modern era. Lucretius, argues Greenblatt, transformed modern thinking about the world as a sphere of things without an otherworldly force - as beautiful and scientific intricate in itself apart for the displaced hope of a better life in another world. Lucretius was a stunningly fine poet as well as very compelling philosopher of natural history. His "On the Nature of Things" has served me as a kind of counterweight to Reinhold Niebuhr's insistence on human history as...[read on]About Why Niebuhr Matters, from the publisher:
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) was a Protestant preacher, an influential religious thinker, and an important moral guide in mid-twentieth-century America. But what does he have to say to us now? In what way does he inform the thinking of political leaders and commentators from Barack Obama and Madeleine Albright to David Brooks and Walter Russell Mead, all of whom acknowledge his influence? In this lively overview of Niebuhr's career, Charles Lemert analyzes why interest in Niebuhr is rising and how Niebuhr provides the answers we ache for in the face of seismic shifts in the global order.Learn more about the book and author at Charles Lemert's website and the Yale University Press.
In the middle of the twentieth century, having outgrown a theological liberalism, Niebuhr challenged and rethought the nonsocialist Left in American politics. He developed a political realism that refused to sacrifice ideals to mere pragmatism, or politics to bitterness and greed. He examined the problem of morality in an immoral society and reimagined the balance between rights and freedom for the individual and social justice for the many. With brevity and deep insight, Lemert shows how Niebuhr's ideas illuminate our most difficult questions today.
Charles Lemert is Senior Fellow at Yale's Center for Comparative Research. His recent books include The Structural Lie: Small Clues to Globalization (Paradigm, 2011).
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