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Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays Paperback – September 13, 1994
"The Black Presidency"
Rated by Vanity Fair as one of our most lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today, this book is a provocative and lively look into the meaning of America's first black presidency. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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"If you destroy the ideal of the "gentle man" and remove from men all expectations of courtesy and consideration toward women and children, you have prepared the way for an epidemic of rape and abuse. If you depreciate the sanctity and solemnity of marriage, not just as a bond between two people, but as a bond between those two people and their forebears, their children, and their neighbors, then you have prepared the way for an epidemic of divorce, child neglect, community ruin, and loneliness. If you destroy the economies of household and community, then you destroy the bonds of mutual usefulness and practical dependence without which the other bonds will not hold."
Why is it that we have our best thinkers like Berry running old family farms, and our worst thinkers running our national government? Sigh.
Not surprisingly, as a Kentucky gentleman farmer, Berry's definition of community centers on the bond between the people and the land on which they live. Modern urban readers may be tempted to dismiss as an old farmer's finger-wagging Berry's accusations against the global economy and its insatiable appetites (a la "Well, when I was a boy..."), but his arguments are sharp-witted, penetrating and thoroughly convincing; I found myself frequently exclaiming to the empty room (or on the train, where I do most of my reading) a self-righteous "Yes!" to his analysis of the myth of the global economy.
Having dropped any guard to Berry's disarmingly kindred spirit, I did find myself challenged in other deeply-held beliefs by his essay "The Problem of Tobacco," in which he argues for the economies and communities of the tobacco farmers with whom he was raised--despite his acknowledgement that smoking is unhealthy and that he himself quit many years ago. But his manner is so straightforward and honest that it feels only just and natural to set aside one's personal prejudices and to examine the underlying issues on their own merits--no small achievement in critical writing.
In all, I found the essays refreshing and powerful not merely for the boost they gave my ego (after all, Wendell Berry thinks like I do!Read more ›
The book is a collection of eight essays written by Berry, all of which deal (sometimes loosely) with the degradation of community. "Community" is a term of art for Berry; it is more than merely a group of people living in close proximity to one another who happen, from time to time, to bump into each other at the store. Rather, community is a defined group of people who live together in a particular place, over time, in a way that fosters a strong sense of togetherness. People who have this type of community have experiences together in everyday life, such as work, play, tragedy, and joy. In community of this nature there is a sense of belonging that most Americans today would not be able to relate to.
Berry is not the only intellectual (a label I would guess he'd hate hear applied to himself) to suggest not only that our communities are deteriorating, but that this deterioration adversely effects the quality and essence of our lives. For a more empirical approach to the subject, see especially Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam. I think when Berry's book is read in light of Putnam's we see not only a picture of the problem but also a recipe for the remedy.
Berry is a challenging author. He is at times very radical, and he sometimes employs demagoguery to press his point.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great book! I really enjoyed hearing from Berry in essay form. However, as someone who is not a farmer, about half of the material was quite lost on me. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Amazon Customer
Wendell Berry is a careful writer, with a close eye on small farms and effective environmental land management by local farmers rather than large corporate Agri-business.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book arrived indistinguishable from new, quickly and at a great price. I don't agree with EVERYTHING Wendell says, but we're definitely on the same team planet-wise. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Ed M.
This book is fantastic. I love all the essays and the one essay titled as the same as the book title is outstanding commentary on American Society. Read morePublished 13 months ago by John C.
I appreciated Berry's emphatics' on community, especially in the essay on sex. He has the ability to express difficult concepts in a "down home" fashion. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Henry Carton