FACING UP TO MODERNITY: Reflections on Society, Politics, and Religion by Peter L. Berger

FACING UP TO MODERNITY: Reflections on Society, Politics, and Religion

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sociologist Peter Berger can expect to be reviewed in Christian Century, Commentary, National Review, and the Nation--recognition of his identity as ""intellectual conservative,"" social activist, and professing Christian. The eighteen essays collected here span the period from the early 1960s to the present and reflect issues explored in previous books; to that extent the present volume can serve as a Berger roundup. But he also presses on from modernity and its discontents (The Homeless Mind, 1973) and the lessons of Third World development (Pyramids of Sacrifice, 1974) to the here-and-now. ""One funny thing that happened to me in the Third World was that I developed a strong sympathy with tribalism""--hence an interest in ""mediating structures,"" institutions like the family, church, and neighborhood which stabilize private life (and ward off anomie) and simultaneously provide the body politic with a collective moral foundation (without which it must resort to coercion). So: public policy should, at the least, protect and foster these institutions and, optimally, utilize them as its agents (the former a proposition ""more palatable to those on the Right,"" the latter to those farther Left). All of which--in the capstone essay here--Berger exhibits as evidence of the direct line from sociological theory to such doorstep problems as busing and public school prayer, dealt with specifically in other pieces. A number were formulated for public occasions and show Berger as a clear, strong, pithy writer who calls an argument an argument and the new mod devil, heretically, ""one of the Good Lord's harlequins, a not altogether unwelcome character, a reminder of transcendence."" Even in disagreement, one reads him with interest, pleasure, and respect.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1977
Publisher: Basic Books