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The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order & Freedom Paperback – April 1, 1990


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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: ICS Press (April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558150587
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558150584
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,452,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert Nisbet (1913–1996) was a professor at Columbia University and the author of The Sociological Tradition, The Social Bond, The Present Age, and other books.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Steve Jackson on December 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Robert Nisbet (1913-1996) was one of the most important conservative thinkers in the twentieth century and this work, The Quest for Community, was perhaps his most influential. It helped spark a Renaissance in conservative thought in America, appearing around the same time as Voegelin's The New Science of Politics, Buckley's God and Man at Yale, and Kirk's The Conservative Mind. [Brad Stone, Robert Nisbet, p. xvi.]
Modern man craves community and order. As Nisbet says, modern society encourages a sense of alienation and a loss of community. Nisbet brilliantly describes how modern literature, politics and religion bears witness to this sense of alienation. If man can't find community in mediating institutions such as the church and the family, he will find it in totalitarian movements. "The greatest appeal of the totalitarian party, Marxist or other, lies in its capacity to provide a sense of moral coherence and communal membership to those who have become, to one degree or another, victims of the sense of exclusion from the ordinary channels of belonging in society." [p. 32.] War itself becomes a means of escape from the "vast impersonal spaces of modern society." [p. 34.]
In addition to describing alienation in modern life, Nisbet analyzes the ideological origins of man's loss of community. Although many paved the way for this state of affairs, the chief villain was Rousseau. Rousseau sees the individual and the state as the two most basic entities, and it is the state that reconciles the conflicts between men and within man himself. [pp. 125-28.] The state "frees" man by destroying his allegiance to intermediate social institutions, thereby freeing him for service to the General Will.
This is the most important work I read in 2001.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is truly one of the best works of sociology I have ever read. The topic and slant of the book is truly unique: that people search for and need 'community', or meaningful relationships in social groups. Nisbet tracks the decline of many of the once relevant and viable social groups, and how their position has been encroached on by the State and centralized capitalism, with a keen historical analysis. His broad and deep analysis is indeed stunning. The length of the book, around 250 pages, is also very workable. The only negative about this book is that Nisbet's prose is sometimes awkward, though at other times beautiful.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Edmund More on July 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
The book reads like a contemporary critique of our society. When I discovered it was written in 1953, I realized I was holding the works of a true prophet. Nisbet predicted and explained the developments of our times.

I particularly appreciated his explanation of what happened to the power held by a non-government institutions (e.g. the church) when it declined as an institution. The answer was that a small part was given to individuals and the rest went to the central government. Hence the odd paradox of ever increasing individual freedom in the face a dramatic increase in the power of the central government. Both individual and state were taking power from community institutions, however unequal the division.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Matthew J. Summers on March 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
As I read this book, my mind repeatedly pulled up scenes of George Orwell's 1984. For those of you who have read 1984 and can recall, Winston is given a book by O'Brian that explains the nature of the Party, the reasons for thier oppression, the brainwashing that the Party uses to keep control, and the reasons civilization fell under despotism. The Quest for Community may as well be the book that Winston reads.

This book examines the problems created when small social groups that are intermediate between the citizen and the State become effaced in an attempt to "free" citizens from their responsibility to them. This leaves responsible to one party only, the State.

Robert Nisbet shows clearly the appeal of radical individualism and documents the history and progression of the idea. He shows how, should the State absorb the functions of the intermediate groups such as the church, the family, and the gild, the individual would be directly responsible to the State in all aspects of life.

This is a terriffic read. The only criticism I would have for it is that I felt at times it was a tad redundant, but the ideas are insightful and the logic is sound. I highly recommend this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John M. Balouziyeh on October 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Robert Nisbet argues that a powerful need of human nature desires membership and status within the context of community. Yet community in contemporary society has been disintegrating with the advent of an unrestrained individualism that was born in the eighteenth century, confirmed by the French Revolution, and carried full-blown into the nineteenth century. Nisbet writes that "individualism was tolerable in an age when the basic elements of social organization were still strong and psychologically meaningful," but today, the philosophy of individualism divorced from relationships "lacks even pragmatic justification" (p. 205). Yet it has imbued every area of society, including the social sciences and modern public administration, which has been dominated by a conception of society as an abstract aggregate of unconnected individuals. "It is far more difficult to plan for, to legislate for, persons who live not in simple economic or political perspectives but in complex associative and normative systems that are the product of tradition and custom" (p. 241).

The state of contemporary society has denied man his basic need for community by neglecting the associations that build up the social order, such as the family, the church, and the local community. In describing modern man, Nisbet concludes that, "On the one hand, and partly behind us, is the historic world in which loyalties to family, church, profession, local community, and interest association exert, however ineffectively, persuasion and guidance. On the other is the world of values identical with the absolute political community--the community in which all symbolism, allegiance, responsibility, and sense of purpose have become indistinguishable from the operation of centralized political power" (p. 249).
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