Customer Reviews

35
4.3 out of 5 stars
What's Wrong With the World
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$4.95 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

94 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2003
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
These forty-nine essays first appeared in June of 1910 and though some of the subjects may seem a bit stodgy, the writing is still fresh and riveting and the insights are clear and powerful.
In fact, some of the moral issues are perhaps more vital today than they were in Chesterton's time. He seemed to foresee that the diminution of our moral standards would lead to the dehumanization of mankind, he foresaw woman's suffrage and the dangers of the burgeoning corporate oligarchy.
All of these essays are memorable, touched with Chesterton's often dazzling verbal legerdemain. In "The Insane Necessity," he writes, "...discipline means that in certain frightfully rapid circumstances, one can trust anybody so long as he is not everybody." There are so many memorable more, like "Oppression by Optimism," "The Unfinished Temple" and "Sincerity and the Gallows" that are each in their turn, breathtaking in both their focus and scope.
If you've never read G K Chesterton, this is a fine place to start and if you've read some of his other works and enjoyed them, you'll love this one.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
137 of 144 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2003
Format: Library BindingVerified Purchase
One thing this book makes clear is that although the socio-political names change, the game remains the same. GK takes a hard look at what's wrong with England in 1910, and his diagnosis works just as well for America in 2003. GK rails against capitalism and socialism, for both philosophies are equally dehumanizing-capitalism excuses inhumanity as a cost of doing business; socialism seeks to redefine humanity by stripping away from us all that is human. Politicians, thinkers, and civic leaders on both ends of the spectrum flail away at social problems by attacking symptoms-poverty, homelessness, the role of women in society, disintegration of the family, unfruitful education-but consistently make the symptoms worse because they never see the underlying problem. What is the underlying problem? It is that our leaders no longer put the individual, which is human and therefore sacred, above the social organization, which is merely artificial and expendable. By dismissing the laws of God, we have nothing left but an anarchy of ideas. We have replaced one law of God with a thousand laws of social theory. GK shows how such an unfocused and confused approach has steadily worsened the plight of the poor, the family, the publicly educated man, etc., and predicts that Western social fabric will only unravel further, as long as we keep this up. Unfortunately for us, we have, and GK's predictions are correct.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle Edition
G.K. Chesterton's "What's Wrong With the World" is not a bit of light reading. There are heady thoughts throughout and the reader is invited to do some of the heavy lifting as well. I don't agree with all of Chesterton's conclusions either but he does have a wonderful way with words. Have you ever had an argument with someone in which you thoroughly disagreed with some of their points but admired the way they laid them out and their turns of the phrase? That is my experience with G.K. Chesterton in a nutshell.

I only picked up this volume because I read somewhere that C.S. Lewis was a devoted fan of Chesterton.

Be prepared, there is no one thing that is wrong with the world - it is a collection of things. Of course, any thinking person knows that there are always a collection of problems that are inter-related and cause all sorts of things to be wrong in the world.

Chesterton is strongly pro-Catholic church so be prepared that one of the things wrong with the world is that the world is not Catholic. Being a Lutheran myself, I smiled and moved on. Women working outside of the home is a problem Chesterton identifies as well. Not because women are inferior (he reveres the housewife and acknowledges it is draining) but because the home is a special place if well-tended by an extraordinary women - a place where the family can actually be free of the demands of society and work. Plus, a homemaker is, by the very nature of the job, a skilled amateur that knows a little about "a hundred trades." Homemakers are not specialized and that is good in Chesterton's eyes.

Why is specialization a problem? People become experts in just one thing and don't learn about the rest of the world. Think of our modern college system. Someone can get an MBA in business but never have taken an art class. Doctorates of art in all likelihood have never taken an econ class. Are those people well educated?

Probably his biggest thing that is wrong with the world is its habit of "altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul." In other words, we conform to the arbitrary demands of society rather than making sure that society conforms to the needs of the human soul.

Tired of the "Think of the Children" mantra? So was Chesterton 100 years ago: "There has arisen...a foolish and wicked try typical of the confusion. I mean the cry, "Save the children." It is, of course, part of that modern morbidity that insists on treating the state (which is the home of man) as a sort of desperate expedient in time of panic. This terrified opportunism is also the origin of the Socialist and other schemes."

Chesterton also has several comments on education that to this 20 year veteran teacher sound grumpy, fuddy-duddy and exactly 100% right.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
74 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a dandy -- a little social commentary full of Chesterton's ever-so-fun-and-clever humor and incredible way of making you realize that the ways in which we humans think is often the exact opposite of what we ought to think. The content is, I suppose, a bit dated... it is intended for the turn-of-the-century (the last turn, not this one) English reader; as such, issues such as women's suffrage might appear to be entirely culturally irrelevant. If read in its historical context, however, it can function both as a history lesson and poignant (in its time) social commentary. And, needless to say, as with all truly good observations about something in the past, there is a good deal which is extremely pertinent to the current social condition... even in those things that might appear outmoded. A good read.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
'The only way to discuss the social evil is to get at once to the social ideal. We can all see the national madness; but what is national sanity? I have called this book "What Is Wrong with the World?" and the upshot of the title can be easily and clearly stated. What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right."

- from "The Medical Mistake", herein (Chesterton's chapter on the perils of trying to overextend biological metaphors in analyzing societies - not that he doesn't do it himself later)

Having bought this book, one of Chesterton's non-fictional works on what might be called philosophy (he himself refers to "modern social inquiry") some years ago, I had not read it properly until just recently, because every time I attempted to tackle it, I made the error of dipping into one of the sections detailing Chesterton's opinions on women's rights, then setting the book aside in frustrated annoyance.

Nevertheless, I have to recommend the book, though not offering any blanket endorsement of Chesterton's opinions as expressed in it. You may well ask why; I will show you rather than tell you.

'I originally called this book "What is Wrong," and it would have satisfied your sardonic temper to note the number of misunderstandings that arose from the use of the title. Many a mild lady visitor opened her eyes when I remarked casually, "I have been doing 'What is Wrong' all this morning." And one minister of religion moved quite sharply in his chair when I told him (as he understood it) that I had to run upstairs and do what was wrong, but should be down again in a minute. Exactly of what occult vice they silently accused me I cannot conjecture, but I know of what I accuse myself; and that is, of having written a very shapeless and inadequate book, and one quite unworthy to be dedicated to you. As far as literature goes, this book is what is wrong, and no mistake."

- from the author's dedication

However wrong-headed I consider some of Chesterton's opinions, how can I help but be disarmed by someone with a sense of humour like that, who can write like that?

More - even where I disagree with him, his arguments are worth reading, though I would not draw the same inferences he does, and itch to counter-argue where I think his initial assumptions have led him astray (not least by digging into some of my better books about what the Victorian era was *really* like underneath the gilded mythology that has grown up around it, both that current at the time and that in force now). Chesterton as a whole isn't simple to classify; someone who agrees with him on one subject may disagree on another, and he may start from a premise the reader disagrees with, follow it up with a logical fallacy or improperly drawn analogy, then jump into a pretty penetrating analysis (and the reverse situation also occurs, in which a weak analysis follows stronger groundwork). This man bears very careful reading.

To take one example, "The old hypocrite...was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical." Chesterton was a staunch Creationist, and could make rather disparaging remarks about science, while at the same time favouring open vigorous controversy and logical argument.

To place the book somewhat in context, when it was first published in June of 1910, Queen Victoria had died only nine years before, her son was in the last year of his reign, and women could attend university at Oxford and Cambridge but were not permitted to take degrees. This edition is annotated with footnotes for now-historical references that were current at the time of the book's original publication, mostly in the matter of the names of individual people and political parties; however, many of the footnotes are so terse that they only provide enough information for the reader to look up the information elsewhere (e.g. by providing someone's full name and birth/death dates, identifying them as a writer, then leaving the reader to find out what the writer wrote *about*, why Chesterton brought him up). The terseness of the footnotes has some charm - the editors thus avoid projecting onto Chesterton anything but what can be very impartially annotated.

The book is divided into five main sections: "The Homelessness of Man", "Imperialism, or the Mistake About Man", "Feminism, or the Mistake About Woman", "Education: Or the Mistake About the Child", and "The Home of Man" (not counting the author's notes at the end of the book). The first, third, and fourth sections take up three-quarters of the text, but there is some crossover between them, particularly on education and relationships between the sexes. Each section is broken up into several (4 - 14) chapters, so a much wider variety of topics are covered than may at first be apparent, ranging from science fiction to chivalry (in several senses).

Worth reading, even if you only want to disagree with an opponent with a considerable mastery of language. It's hard going in places, which I down less to philosophical disagreements between reader and writer but to the fact that he's operating from a cultural context that's just similar enough to the present day for the dissonance to be particularly severe when it crops up.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
Chesterton wrote a great deal of fiction and nonfiction, and his nonfiction covers all sorts of topics including religion, literature, biography, and-as here-the social, political, and philosophical issues facing England at the beginning of the twentieth century. As an American at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I did find some of the references dated, obscure, or irrelevant; but there is still plenty here that is worth reading and thinking about.
I would not recommend this as an introduction to Chesterton, as it has not aged as well as some of his other works. But the Chesterton afficionado should not hesitate. GKC's unique style, wit, and insight are in full force here.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I just finished it. I was impressed, and not a little surprised, with how applicable it is for today.

Chesterton started out agnostic, I think, and spent a long time in the Protestant Church before being convinced of the correctness of the Catholic Church's claims to be THE Church founded by Christ, and its containing the Fullness of God's revealed Truth on Earth. So, when he says that what is wrong with the world is that it is not Catholic enough--well, perhaps he has a rather unique, or at least an unusually well-rounded, perspective on this.

I would think a book that celebrated the virtues of what is now called the "stay at home Mom" would be hard-put to get published today. However, his reasoning behind his thoughts on this subject are even MORE hard-put to argue against. Now there are studies to back up his conclusions--it seems a stay at home parent (admittedly, far and away most often Moms) in an intact 2-parent family are unequivocally better for children, statistically speaking. (For the record, Chesterton was NOT advocating keeping women home against their wills, but in ALLOWING them to stay home--by choice and by having the economic freedom to do so.)

His criticism of the Asian culture would have gotten Nixon barred from China had they been American contemporaries. (That was intended to be an hyperbole, but perhaps wound up being merely a rather extreme caricature.) However, I got the impression that this was more a literary device to express criticism of the West's periodic weakness of character inviting invasion sporadically through history, rather than an expression of racisim.

His take on the problems of society and their potential solutions are so correct even today, more than 70 years after his death are darn near prophetic. He was patently unafraid to take on difficult issues and his criticisms are very difficult to refute, even when you disagree with him.

Not a light read like his more popular "Father Brown" mysteries, but definitely well worth the time of those who like to think about the problems of society today.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
I've enjoyed every book by Chesterton that I've ever read. He's a very clever, insightful and humorous writer, but this one was especially good. In it, Chesterton addresses many big problems in the world of his time (and even more so, the world of today,) and comes to some very jarring conclusions about them.

As with every writer worth reading, Chesterton utterly challenges the false assumptions that the world bases its whole system of belief on; even assumptions about things like public education, voting and soap, and also like with every writer worth reading, he backs up his claims with logical analogies and evidence, which help to support his views. I wouldn't dream of robbing you of the delight of reading these things for yourself, of course, so here's your chance to stop reading this review. I'll spend the rest of it talking about some of the points he made.

Chesterton's first several points in this book are to point out that man has gone wrong in quite a number of ways, and made quite a number of false assumptions to prevent himself from going right again. People make the mistake of thinking that the societies of the past failed because they were flawed in some way that we aren't. People make choices on the basis of what they -dislike,- rather than on the basis of what's better. People make the mistake of regarding the past with fear and distrust in general, and of assuming that only the future can offer them anything worth having; that there was nothing about the past that's worth restoring. All of these things are purely destructive, since they block a person off to an avenue of good ideas and good solutions, which would otherwise be available to them.

People make the mistake of prizing optimism over success; a happy outlook over a happy life. They make the mistake of allowing whole groups of people, making opposite mistakes, to guide them in one false direction or another, never once suspecting that both might be wrong in certain ways, or if they suspect, unable to really do anything about it. The early parts of the book are a real eye-opener.

Chesterton then challenges imperialism and the way wicked public changes are spread; through claiming that it's necessary. Never once, he says, are these evil changes enacted because people really want them enacted. They're enacted because people are convinced that they're needed, whether they're wanted or not. However, Chesterton's point is pretty clear; they are, in truth, not needed at all; certainly not among everyday people who are just trying to live their lives and put food on the table. Every major radical political agenda of a left-leaning slant in the modern world can be put neatly in this category.

Next, Chesterton turns his guns on feminism. This is probably the most controversial part of the book, which may explain why I loved it so much. Basically, he points out that men are not women, nor are women men, and that they have different natural inclinations and ways of thinking, which makes men better at some things, and women at others. Like all the best people who address this issue, he doesn't get distracted by the feminist lines about "equality." Indeed, women are equal to men, in their innate worth, their human rights, etc, but this does not make them the same as men, nor should it need to. Men and women can compliment one another within society, each having a different role, and neither needing to infringe on the other. It's not necessary, or helpful, to just mix everyone into the same pot, like we do in modern society.

Perhaps the most controversial part of this section is in Chesterton's dismissal of women's suffrage, which he defends, not by repudiating women, as feminists might have one believe, but by repudiating votes. In a sense, I agree with him. Voting is a grave responsibility with many dark aspects to it, and there are distinct drawbacks to it, as a system of government. For one thing, in a monarchy, or some other such society, even if an evil tyrant takes over, you don't need to look suspiciously at most of your fellow citizens. It probably wasn't their fault. Not so in a democracy. In a democracy, when an evil tyrant takes over (and it always happens eventually, as it now has to America,) you have to wake up the next morning and go to work, knowing full well that over half of your fellow citizens are either voting in ignorance, are negligent of their duties, or are evil themselves.

Then too, if an evil tyrant wants to seize power over a democracy, he can't just march his army in and take command. He has to go through the long, slow process of gradually corrupting the hearts or dulling the minds of over half its citizens, so that they become evil or ignorant enough to accept him. When all is said and done, I think that more souls are lost under an evil democracy than under and evil dictatorship. These aren't the points that Chesterton brings up against voting, but it's what I got to thinking about as a result of this book.

The next group of big issues dealt with in this book are education; specifically, public education of children, and how it rises from another false assumption; that because rich people allow their children to be taught by someone else, so should everyone else. In short, that not only -can- parents escape from the task of teaching their children, but they -should.- He explains why this is utter nonsense; what great benefits the child gains in learning from their own parents, and others who share their way of life, instead of suffering under the "merciful gifts" of the richer classes.

I should point out that with the state of public schools in America today (basically a form of child abuse,) these objections are even -more- poignant and -more- important. In fact, really, all the objections in this book stand out much clearer and more correct than ever, but none more so than his last big observation on the world.

The problem is that man is viewing his society/social constructs as immutable, and his neighbor as flexible, when it should be the other way around. People are trying to shape man to fit into a vision of society, rather than forming their vision of society around man. This is what's really wrong with the world, according to G. K. Chesterton.

I couldn't agree with him more.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is a wonderful edition of What's Wrong With the World. If you have read much of Chesterton's social commentary or essay work, you know that he makes many allusions to people, places, and ideas that were common to him in the early part of the 20th Century. Ignatius Press did a great job footnoting many of these references, which makes this amazing work of Chesterton's much more accessible to the common man, whom he loved so much.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
G.K. Chesterton's "What's Wrong With the World" is not a bit of light reading. There are heady thoughts throughout and the reader is invited to do some of the heavy lifting as well. I don't agree with all of Chesterton's conclusions either but he does have a wonderful way with words. Have you ever had an argument with someone in which you thoroughly disagreed with some of their points but admired the way they laid them out and their turns of the phrase? That is my experience with G.K. Chesterton in a nutshell.

I only picked up this volume because I read somewhere that C.S. Lewis was a devoted fan of Chesterton.

Be prepared, there is no one thing that is wrong with the world - it is a collection of things. Of course, any thinking person knows that there are always a collection of problems that are inter-related and cause all sorts of things to be wrong in the world.

Chesterton is strongly pro-Catholic church so be prepared that one of the things wrong with the world is that the world is not Catholic. Being a Lutheran myself, I smiled and moved on. Women working outside of the home is a problem Chesterton identifies as well. Not because women are inferior (he reveres the housewife and acknowledges it is draining) but because the home is a special place if well-tended by an extraordinary women - a place where the family can actually be free of the demands of society and work. Plus, a homemaker is, by the very nature of the job, a skilled amateur that knows a little about "a hundred trades." Homemakers are not specialized and that is good in Chesterton's eyes.

Why is specialization a problem? People become experts in just one thing and don't learn about the rest of the world. Think of our modern college system. Someone can get an MBA in business but never have taken an art class. Doctorates of art in all likelihood have never taken an econ class. Are those people well educated?

Probably his biggest thing that is wrong with the world is its habit of "altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the human soul." In other words, we conform to the arbitrary demands of society rather than making sure that society conforms to the needs of the human soul.

Tired of the "Think of the Children" mantra? So was Chesterton 100 years ago: "There has arisen...a foolish and wicked try typical of the confusion. I mean the cry, "Save the children." It is, of course, part of that modern morbidity that insists on treating the state (which is the home of man) as a sort of desperate expedient in time of panic. This terrified opportunism is also the origin of the Socialist and other schemes."

Chesterton also has several comments on education that to this 20 year veteran teacher sound grumpy, fuddy-duddy and exactly 100% right.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
The Everlasting Man
The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton (Paperback - March 17, 2012)
$9.99

Orthodoxy
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (Paperback - March 8, 2014)
$6.97

In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton
In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton by G.K. Chesterton (Paperback - October 18, 2011)
$16.74
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.