Unfocused but frequently brilliant disquisition on Christianity in relation to society. Berger (Institute for the Study of Economic Culture/Boston Univ.) starts from the premise that Christianity ``is not of this world.'' Transcendent in origin, it is necessarily in opposition to the ``wisdom of the age,'' the cultural norms of any given century and civilization. How, then, can Christians come to terms with society? The effort is ``difficult, frantic, and more than a little ridiculous.'' Yet it must be made, for we are children of our age. Berger counsels a middle path between rejection of the world (evangelical Protestantism) and surrender to it (secular society). He scorns ``cognitive bargaining'' with nonbelievers, warning that ``one needs a very long spoon indeed if one is to dine with the devil of doubt.'' In America, Berger discerns a new middle class, ``the knowledge class,'' which will forge new compromises between state and religion. He sees great opportunity for revitalization in religious pluralism, noting that every part of the globe is ``furiously religious''—with the curious exception of Western Europe—but he urges Christians to adhere to their fundamental values. The best interreligious dialogue is ``contestation,'' for ``truth resists relativization.'' As for what Christians believe, Berger ruminates on the first words of the Creed (``I believe in one God''), and finds in them an affirmation of individualism, ``faith in the ultimate benignness of the universe,'' and the reality of a God who encompasses ``plenitude'' and ``emptiness.'' Too much crammed into too little space, but most of it caviar. The flowering of American neoconservative religious thought (see also Richard John Neuhaus's Doing Well and Doing Good, below), notorious for its acumen, wit, and cockiness, continues unabated.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 1992

ISBN: 0-02-902930-9

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1992

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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