The Irony of American History

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University of Chicago Press, Jan 22, 2010 - Religion - 198 pages
“[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

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User Review  - justindtapp - LibraryThing

In 2007, David Brooks interviewed candidate Obama and almost randomly asked him if he'd ever heard of Reinhold Niebuhr. Obama replied "I love him," and proceeded to give him a detailed summation of ... Read full review


User Review  - Kirkus

A liberal theologist lashes out at current American thinking on world affairs and his angle on communism, based as it is on the thinking of a Churchman, catches our eye with new facets. But he is ... Read full review


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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About the author (2010)

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)taught for many years at Union Theological Seminary, in New York City, as well as lecturing and preaching all over the country. The recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, he is the author of many books, including The Nature and Destiny of Man.

Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations and history at Boston University, is the author of The Long War.

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