THE SOCIAL PHILOSOPHERS by Robert A. Nisbet

THE SOCIAL PHILOSOPHERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An attempt to schematize Western Thought by means of ""community;"" that is ""relationships among individuals that are characterized by a high degree of personal intimacy, of social cohesion or moral commitment, and of continuity in time."" There exist communities based on kinship, politics, religion, etc. to which various thinkers are assigned. Thus, the military community has Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, Mao, Hugo Grotius, von Clausewitz, Plato. The ""ecological interdependence"" community St. Benedict of Nursia, Thomas More, Proudhon, Kropotkin. The ""pluralism"" community includes Aristotle, Althusius and de Tocqueville, with a ""radical pluralist"" branch. Each community exhibits special characteristics: the ""revolutionary"" community involves violence, need for terror, elitism, centralization. These assignments are bound to cause surprise if not anguish: Durkheim, for instance, is arguably no pluralist and Lenin was certainly no terrorist. What fills out the typologies are extensive quotations from the sources, with a string of overenthusiastic generalizations, often contradicted by the text itself. We are informed that ""no more important generalization is to be found about the history of mankind"" than that ""the kinship community is invariably defeated by the military,"" but a few pages later: ""The Germanic invasion of western Europe meant the replacement of huge areas of western Europe of Roman imperial, military-political institutions by kinship structure and values."" Taxonomic trivia.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1973
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell