AUTHORITY by Eugene Kennedy

AUTHORITY

How Americans Can Regain the Satisfaction They Miss at Home, at Work, and in Public Life
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A glib contribution to the culture wars that will delight fellow believers and strike everyone else as silly. Chicago Tribune columnist Kennedy (The Now and Future Church, 1984, etc.) and Charles (director of undergraduate medical education at the Univ. of Illinois, Chicago) bemoan the absence of authority in contemporary American society. They distinguish ``authority'' from ``authoritarianism'' and explain that the latter has justifiably negative connotations while the former is natural, creative, moral, and always a positive factor in human existence. Unfortunately, they claim, in our reaction against authoritarianism we have mistakenly abandoned authority. The consequences are everywhere: Kennedy and Charles include marriage, the family, the self, education, work, the professions, government, business, religion, and the law in their catalog of ``de-authorized'' modern tragedies. One might expect that it would be difficult to identify true authority and the values of ``healthy people'' given this moral quagmire, but luckily ``basically sound people . . . agree on life's fundamentals.'' As healthy and sound people, the authors apparently do not need to explain or defend their beliefs, recognize and explore difficulties associated with them, or even consider the possibility of legitimate disagreement. This allows them to focus their energy on attacking familiar straw men ranging from political and sexual correctness to psychologists promoting ``sharing'' in marriages and ``self-esteem'' in children. Their abstract ideal of perfect authority compares favorably to the messy reality of life, of course, but their recommendation that we look to tradition for guidance does not extend to considering the problems associated with traditional norms. There are some insightful criticisms here, especially regarding our overreliance on law and the courts as the authority of last resort. But they are lost amid the ranting and smug self-assurance. What can you say when someone identifies Rush Limbaugh as ``one of the most articulate defenders of traditional values''?

Pub Date: July 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83665-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997




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