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A NATION SO CONCEIVED by Reinhold Niebuhr


Reflections on the History of American From Its Early Visions to Its Present Power

by Reinhold NiebuhrAlan Heimert

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1962
Publisher: Scribner

Perhaps no nation is more prone to self-analysis than the United States, and this dynamic unravelling of our roots with a slightly Hegelian cast is sure to go beyond the campus market. After an analysis of three categories of American character -- the quest for unity in expansion; the transformation from an agrarian to industrial society; and the transformation of the nation's original sense of mission to its present sense of responsibility, -- the authors conclude that our weakness may be due to rapid changes in these categories but we must understand that our present trouble is due to "our frantic and nostalgic-yearning after the original simplicities for the sake of fleeing or avoiding present complexities". The most rewarding section has to do with our travels from pluralism to unity to the time when "increasingly all Americans have learned to ask not only how others think but why". There is a fascinating analysis of the struggle between Protestantism and Catholicism in which it is concluded that religious pluralism affords a tolerable solution to the inadequacies of each religion alone. There are some unwieldy chunks of prose ("imperial irresponsibility is an unimpressive method of preserving an anti- imperialist virtue") but the subject is timely and often Niebuhr is news.