Intriguing study by McDonough (Political Science/Arizona State) of the growth and collapse of the most powerful branch of the most powerful order of modern Catholicism. The Society of Jesus occupies a special place in the history of post-Reformation Christianity. Founded in the 16th century by Ignatius of Loyola, it rapidly became the most powerful agent of proselytism the Church had ever known. Jesuit missionaries penetrated every corner of the globe and for many years effectively ruled large portions of South America—while their schools gained such a high reputation that the Society soon had a near-monopoly on educating the upper classes of Catholic Europe. The particular strength of the order was its ability to adapt the rigid forms of Counter-Reformation Catholicism to changing circumstances and audiences. In the US, as McDonough observes, this strength eventually became the order's undoing. The pluralistic cast of American society made the sharp credal distinctions by which the Jesuits measured the world seem meaningless (or, at best, esoteric), and forced American Catholics into a siege mentality wherein traditional faith was preserved at the cost of a self- imposed segregation from the main currents of American intellectual and social life. This alienation was especially enervating for the Jesuits, who always and everywhere had made a point of immersing themselves in local customs and attitudes. McDonough shows the great lengths to which American Jesuits went in attempting to cultivate Catholicism in a largely unfriendly environment, and their relief in finding (through the liberalizing pronouncements of Vatican II) the possibility of a compromise. He implies, though, that this compromise was a Pyrrhic victory, since the burden of adaptation and fidelity that the Society had shouldered for so long had, in fact, become their raison d'etre, without which they were to drift into confusion and aimlessness. A very timely report: McDonough's examination of the Jesuits serves nicely as microcosm of the American Catholic experience as a whole.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1991

ISBN: 0-02-920527-1

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1991

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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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