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The Christian Priest Today :
The Christian Priest Today :
by Michael Ramsey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.50
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5.0 out of 5 stars Today and every day..., April 26, 2014
Today (as I write this) it is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. As I reflect on the different things that led me here, and the experiences I have had in the few years since my ordination, I thought that Michael Ramsey's The Christian Priest Today would be a worthwhile text to read and contemplate.

'Today' for Ramsey is not in fact today--the book is derived from lectures first published in 1972, and revised again in 1985. These are available in a slim volume published in the United States by the Cowley Press, well known for liturgical and theological works. Michael Ramsey was Archbishop of Canterbury, and one of the men to have held that job in the last century particularly noted for his theological ability. (Most, but not all, have been regarded as theologically unsophisticated and lackluster -- William Temple is another exception to this rule.)

Ramsey credits Karl Rahner and Edward Schillebeeckx as particularly valuable theological mentors; interesting intellectual friends, given that both were Roman Catholics. Ramsey also gives mention to the influence of Henry Chadwick, Richard Baxter and P.T. Forsyth. It is gratifying for the theological scholar to have such influences noted up front, so that further research can be carried out and the guessing game of 'where did he find that?' is made much less mysterious.

Ramsey begins the book by talking about the general decline in Christendom, and the decline in particular societies of religious sentiment and affinity. However, he also notes that `...there are priests and would-be priests as devoted and as intelligent as at any time in history. This book is designed to hearten them and to help them in their understanding of their calling.`

It is for this reason that I consider it a valuable aid for reflection at this anniversary date of my own ordination. Ramsey discusses the tensions that exist for priests: the tension between this-worldliness and other-worldliness; the problem between varying kinds and tempers of biblical interpretation; the difficulty of maintain a balance between traditions and modernity.

Ramsey's lectures are short and practical -- how to preach God today; how to preach Jesus today; the priest and politics; the priest as a person of prayer. These are all insightful snapshots of key issues that should be of concern to the priest, who is very easily distracted by the day-to-day cares of a parish or, in the cases of those of us who do not run parishes, in the rush of doing a 'real' job while also trying to give pastoral care to appointed communities.

Ramsey warns against a clerical hubris that seems to permeate the clergy of many denominations, but particularly those who have strong hierarchical markers. He urges humility that is ever-present in the gospel messages, especially the gospel of ordination.

By your humility, you will prove that the authority entrusted to you is really Christ's.... Everyone possessing authority is liable to become bossy and overbearing.... Everyone possessing privilege and security is liable to a subtle worldly enjoyment.

Perhaps the most important chapter to me is the one entitled The God Who Calls, as it helped me clarify what I was being called to do, and how to navigate out of the church in which I had found myself blocked. Ironic that an Archbishop of Canterbury should help me leave the local incarnation of the Anglican church. However, I had been blocked by personalities without explanation for many years, one person of whom even stated that, with firm conviction, that the process for finding and ordaining priests is an infallible one, as God doesn't make mistakes.

I found in the words of Ramsey (a much better authority than this misguided cleric) my redemption:
'"Is this man truly called?" The Church has its procedures for deciding the acceptance or otherwise of a person for ordination to the priesthood. Here, if mistakes are made (and there can be no infallibilism) there may be confusion of the two questions. The one question is whether X has been called by God and wants to respond to the call. The other question is whether X looks like the sort of person we want as a priest in our Church.'

It became clear to me that it wasn't that God wasn't calling me to the priesthood, but rather that for fairly prejudicial reasons, the Episcopal church in which I found myself didn't think I 'looked' like a priest of the sort they wanted.

So the God who calls and is the author of our vocation is the God whose theology we study and teach, and the God who never ceases to be with us as we make him known.

I have followed this God into uncharted territory, but still find support in the intellectual and spiritual grounding of my Anglican heritage, regardless of my official status with another church.

Ramsey ends on a note of hope, community, and inclusiveness. The priest, in the church and without, is called to empower all people. Ramsey anticipates the later developments of theologians in the anglo-catholic traditions of recapturing a sense of the priesthood of all believers and making it whole and important to the life of the church. This is a development of which I am fully in accord, and see in Ramsey's messages to new priests and priests-to-be words that can reinvigorate my own ministry.

This is not a book just for clerics, however. It is written with the intention of being useful to any who look for a deeper relationship with the church. It is very anglo-catholic; protestants from traditions that do not have strong hierarchies may have trouble internalising some of the chapters as useful to them. However, each of the chapters is short and meant to be taken as a piece of a larger whole while also being able to stand alone as a useful offering of wisdom.

The Old Catholic Movement
The Old Catholic Movement
by C. B. Moss
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but interesting history, February 23, 2014
This book, recently reissued by Apocryphile Press, is one of the more heavily sought-after volumes on Old Catholicism on various online venues, used bookstores, and other avenues. Part of the reason for this is simple - Old Catholicism as a denomination and phenomenon in the Christian tradition is relatively little studied, and much of the material is done in German and other continental European languages. There are no major established seminaries, no strong denominational resources, and, particularly in the English-speaking world, a lot of competing sources of material that rarely approaches the quality of being good scholarship. C.B. Moss has produced a reasonably sound, reasonably broad account of European Old Catholicism in historical, ecclesial, and to lesser extent theological, terms.

Moss' first inspiration to study the phenomenon of Old Catholicism came from a foundational book of my own in this regard, the text 'History of the So-Called Jansenist Church of Holland'. This book, published in the 1850s, describes some of the earliest issues that led to a separate but Catholic church in Holland; this group later formed relationships with other continental Europeans, primarily but not exclusively in the German lands, after Vatican I. Moss' survey of church history from the Conciliar Movement (circa fourteenth century) to the first Vatican Council takes up more than half the book; this history is interesting and worthwhile, and serves as a good guide to process for Anglican thinking of the time as well as Old Catholic.

It is after this point in the text that the work of history of Old Catholicism proper really takes place. Moss looks at the various national/cultural situations in turn - German, Swiss, Latin, etc. He spends a good amount of time on the Reunion conferences at Bonn and the Declaration of Utrecht, and various conferences that have taken place since Vatican I in which the administrative side of Old Catholicism has been formed. Moss also devotes a chapter to Old Catholic liturgy, as well as one to ecumenical relationships with other Christians - both of these could be better if more fully developed. Moss concentrates the native language liturgies and is generally dismissive of the English versions of Old Catholic liturgical resources.

Of course, C.B. Moss was a cleric of the Church of England. While making a claim to present an unbiased and objective review of the material, he nonetheless betrays himself at the outset by labeling the foundational figures of North American Old Catholic jurisdictions with the chapter title, 'False Starts', with the fully intended double entendre that that terminology implies. Even as Moss speaks in glowing words about the unity of intercommunion and understanding given by the Bonn Agreement and the way in which this models a better means of cooperation among Christian bodies, he is careful to exclude those he doesn't seem to think pass muster. The bias is subtle but very present, even in the less critical parts of the narrative. (Moss in other writing confesses his personal bias against the North American and British expressions of Old Catholicism.)

The version of this text reissued and revised in 1977 devotes a special addendum to the Old Catholic body since Vatican II. Moss highlights certain restricted communion-agreement sharings that are significant; he also highlights other communion issues with Lutherans, Orthodox, and other churches, including the Anglican communion since the advent of women's ordination. This has continued to be a problem area for the Old Catholics.

This is a flawed text in many ways, but still remains a touchstone for Old Catholic history if for no other reason it is one of the few with a scholarly authority. It is a must for any in Old Catholic and Independent Anglican churches, to help them better understand their own history.

Testament: Bible and History
Testament: Bible and History
by John Romer
Edition: Hardcover
66 used & new from $0.53

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A history of sacred words..., December 6, 2013
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John Romer's Testament: The Bible and History is an accessible, interesting account of both the Bible in history, and the history of the development of the sacred text. Romer explores various issues according to the timeline of events, incorporating issues of archaeology, textual redaction, philosophy and sociology into the discussion.'

Romer does not say things like this to discredit or discount the biblical testimony; far from it, Romer is probably more sympathetic to the idea of divine inspiration than many modern scripture scholars. But he is careful to distinguish interpretation from text, historical development from poetical extension, and let both the historical record and the biblical texts speak for themselves, sometimes in harmony and sometimes in discord.

Romer's recounting of the original writing and compilation of the Hebrew scriptures is very interesting. The original need for a 'bible' arose in the face of repeated destructions, exiles, and, particularly, the destruction of the Temple, twice. 'The vice-like pressure of these two national disasters forced into being the Hebrew Bible, which is also the Christian Old Testament. But these disasters also affected the very identity of the God that the ancient books defined. For ancient gods changed when they were uprooted. These gods, with their cults and rituals, were bound into the life and character of the cities and civilisations in which they were first worshipped.'

The Bible became a way for the preservation of this way of life and worship, and in the end provided the primary means for the preservation of the identity of the people of Israel even when there was no geographic centre to call home.

Romer's discussion of the closing of the canon and subsequent development of the Bible in the Christian world is fascinating, too. From discussions of the early church fathers, such as Jerome, to the political intrigues over the vernacular translations of the Bible in the early Renaissance, he provides interesting details. Speaking of Jerome (during a discussion of the Latin Vulgate): 'At once a saint and among the greatest doctors of the church, Jerome was yet a man of whom it has been said that he was canonised not for his qualities of saintliness, but for the services he rendered the Roman church. Hot-tempered, outspoken, passionately devoted to his work and his friends, Jerome is certainly one of the most extraordinary figures in church history. And doubtless, it is due to this special temperament that his Latin Bible has come to be regarded by many people almost as if it were the unmediated word of God himself.'

Of course, many today (especially in America) see the King James Version of the Bible in much the same light. To ignore the background to the development of this Bible does it a disservice; yet, to discount the true inspiration that is apparent on the pages of the King James Version is also to do it a disservice.

From the Israel stela of Thebes to the motion pictures of Cecil B. DeMille, this book covers the large expanse of history humour and graceful prose, without getting bogged down in minute points. There is plenty to argue with in this book, but then, of which book on this theme is there not?

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Puff, the magic pajama..., December 6, 2013
An interesting option for a gift, either as a humourous/gag gift or a serious gift for the Iceland-obsessed. The play on words is nice, too. The site seems to indicate that they only have extra-small sizes -- now, I'm sure that some stud puffins come in extra small sizes (the old adage, 'good things come in small packages' springs to mind here), but there are surely some stud puffins who are larger. I would think that most stud puffins would be larger. In any event, these are fun and funny, and not too expensive. Consider one for yourself or a friend if the size is right.

No Title Available

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The artistic side of Heidegger..., September 3, 2013
Timothy Clark's text on Martin Heidegger is part of a recent series put out by the Routledge Press, designed under the general editorial direction of Robert Eaglestone (Royal Holloway, University of London), to explore the most recent and exciting ideas in intellectual development during the past century or so. To this end, figures such as Paul Ricouer, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and other influential thinkers in critical thought are highlighted in the series, planned to include more than 21 volumes in all.

Clark's text, following the pattern of the others, includes background information on Heidegger and its significance, the key ideas and sources, and Heidegger's continuing impact on other thinkers. As the series preface indicates, no critical thinker arises in a vacuum, so the context, influences and broader cultural environment are all important as a part of the study, something with which Heidegger might agree, although many of the thinkers in this series are also influenced greatly by the productionist metaphysics against which Heidegger spent much time and energy.

Why is Heidegger included in this series? This series is primary for critical thinking in a literary sense, and Heidegger is no literary theorist or critic per se. In fact, this is the first volume to deal primary and exclusively with this line of thinking in Heidegger. However, Heidegger's influence extended far beyond what is more traditionally considered his confines of philosophy, primarily the philosophy of metaphysics, with questions of ontology. Heidegger, by influencing some of the key thinkers in the field of literary criticism, has had a knock-on effect far exceeding his actual contributions to the subject. Intellectual `workers in the field' such as Herbert Marcuse, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, and perhaps most importantly Jacques Derrida derive much in response to and reaction to Heidegger, whose influence extends into psychology, history, politics, linguistics, literary analysis, philosophy, science, and theology (and even further afield).

One of the useful features of the text is the side-bar boxes inserted at various points. For example, during the discussion on Heidegger's development of Geschichte (deep history), there are brief discussions, set apart from the primary strand of the text, on Nihilism and Explanation, developing further these ideas should the reader not be familiar with them, or at least not in the way with which Heidegger would be working with ideas derived from them. Each section on a key idea spans twenty to thirty pages, with a two-page summary concluding each, which gives a recap of the ideas (and provides a handy reference).

My first interest in Heidegger developed out of an interest in the philosophical underpinnings of politics and theology, but this volume looking at his interest in art, literature and the general mindset and development of Western culture certainly adds new dimension to the author of `Being and Time' (yet interestingly, the primary translation of `Being and Time' for English audiences is probably that done by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson - Macquarrie being an important Anglican theologian I study). To a certain extent, this kind of volume on literary analysis violates certain ideas of Heidegger that would resist the application of productionist theories to works of art. Heidegger is probably the father of postmodernism in many respects, something that might make him uncomfortable should postmodernism slip into being yet one more school in the line of Western philosophical and intellectual development.

Clark's primary text from Heidegger for this study is not `Being and Time' as much as it is Heidegger's lecture `The Origin of the Work of Art', delivered in the 1930s and published in 1950. Heidegger applies his principles of philosophical analysis to poetry, painting, architecture and other creative enterprises. Heidegger longed for a complete break with what he saw as the single strand of Western development from the time of the Greek philosophers to the present that culminates in the death of art and the nihilistic tendencies of the modern technological world.

Clark deals with Heidegger's flirtation with the Nazi party in a frank and clear way. That Heidegger was a dues-paying member of the National Socialist party is not a matter of dispute; that Heidegger was initially entranced by the Nazi idealism is likewise fairly well established, given his promotion of their ideals early in his rectorship at the university. However, Heidegger also became disenchanted with them very early in their tenure - by 1934 Heidegger was no longer a public voice in support of them. Why then did he continue paying dues to the party? One of the more bizarre elements of Heidegger's story is the intellectual devotion given to him by students, including Jewish students such as Arendt, Marcuse, Strauss, and others, and the level of influence he had on other Jewish intellectuals such as Derrida, given his Nazi flirtations.

The concluding chapter, After Heidegger, highlights some key areas of development in relation to other thinkers, as well as points of possible exploration for the reader. Heidegger's thought vis-à-vis Derrida and Blanchot (particularly with regard to destruction/deconstruction), his thought with regard to Ricouer and Gadamer (especially his response to the idea of hermeneutics), and his ideas as they apply to the continuing development of philosophical and intellectual history, particularly in the areas of art and literature, and insure Heidegger remaining a relevant if controversial figure in intellectual development.

As do the other volumes in this series, Clark concludes with an annotated bibliography of works by Heidegger, works on Heidegger, and a good index.

While this series focuses intentionally upon literary theory, in fact this is only the starting point. For Heidegger (as for others in this series) the expanse is far too broad to be drawn into such narrow guidelines, and the important and impact of the ideas extends out into the whole range of intellectual development. As intellectual endeavours of every sort depend upon language, understanding, and interpretation, the thorough comprehension of how and why we know what we know is crucial.

Keep Calm and Carry On Motivational Slate Art Print Poster
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5.0 out of 5 stars Keep Calm and hang it up..., April 4, 2013
The original "Keep Calm and Carry On" idea comes from World War II, when the British government sponsored placards and other notices with this message to try to keep both the spirits and the resolve of the people high in the midst of sometimes daily bombings. Most of us do not have endure that today, but there are enough causes of stress and consternation that a gentle reminder of the need to persevere, to just keep plodding through, can be useful.

This particular incarnation of the meme is a large poster -- it will cover the better part of a dormitory door or bedroom door; it is great for college students (who often need to be reminded to carry on, if not keep calm!), but also for any one who might need a little reminder. This poster swaps the traditional red and white with a green background -- not quite House of Commons green, but close -- excellent for the anglophile, particularly those who like to watch Prime Minister's Question Time.

The Greeks
The Greeks
by H. D. F. Kitto
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic text of a classic(al) time, April 3, 2013
This review is from: The Greeks (Paperback)
On the back of my copy of Kitto's book, there is a quote from Raymond Mortimer declaring this volume to be the best introduction to Ancient Greece he had ever read. I'm not sure if I can go that far with regard to this book; perhaps in 1957, when it first came out, that accolade would have been appropriate. However, just because I can't declare this book to be the best unreservedly, I still consider it to be an excellent text, and one that I have very useful in my upper-level undergraduate course in Ancient Greek philosophy.

Kitto has relatively short chapters on a host of subjects, including origins, culture, warfare, political life, philosophy, art, and more. These are arranged according to certain major facets of Greek life that we know - for example, Homer gets a chapter to himself. However, Homer neither arose in a vacuum nor did his work only matter during his (or her) time. Kitto doesn't address too much about the academic controversy over who Homer might have been, but rather addresses the work that we have which survives. That work includes an exploration of the direct and indirect influences on later generations of Greeks, who in turn have had profound impact on our own culture.

Kitto spends a good deal of time on the political structure of Greek life, from the early settlement and migration times, to development of small polities, to larger hegemonic times and the Athenian empire, brief-lived though it was. One question I ask my class to address out of Kitto's text is this - Sparta seems to have won the war, but Athens won the peace; what does this mean? Kitto gives a lot of insight into the competition between Athens and Sparta, and to a lesser extent other polities around the Aegean and off toward Italy; there were unified times in the face of Persian aggression, but more often there were less organized times, which allowed for a kind of international relations in microcosmic form. I once had a professor who longed to teach a modern international relations course using nothing but Herodotus and Thucydides - one reading Kitto can get the sense that there are many truths in this desire, given that many of the motivations of nations and many of the principles of politics among nations remain the same as can be found in the speeches recounted in Thucydides' writing.

Kitto clearly has a deep love of the ancient Greek culture, and parallels much of his own time with this period; he is also quick to point out the differences. This is perhaps the one weakness of this text. If one lacks a familiarity with Britain and British sensibilities and learning in the first half of the twentieth century, one may lose some of the references Kitto makes - for example, he makes reference to the Sophists as being akin to those who might host a seminar, `Did You Want to be a 1000GBP Man?' - the answer would be a resounding no today; he also alludes to `our political parties' which are clearly different from those today (and for those in North America, one might have really no hook upon which to hang understanding).

On the other hand, some things haven't changed. He also says of the Sophists that `Perhaps "Professor" would be a rough modern equivalent to "Sophist".' A challenge to remember, indeed! This is certainly something my students can understand. He also uses colourful stories such as Diogenes calling to both the perfumed set and what would be the Greek grunge set, `Affectation!' He also pulls from Herodotus the disappointment of Croesus at finding out that Tellus, Cleopas and Biton led happier lives than he (but alas, that they were dead, too...). There are many pieces that stick with one upon reading, and because this text does not go overboard in information, it fits together in a more easily grasped framework, too.

One might challenge Kitto's assertion that the Greeks were as superior as they are presented - `unless our standards of civilization are comfort and contraptions, Athens from (say) 480 to 380 was clearly the most civilized society that has yet existed.' However, there is no doubt that the Greeks advanced in directions hitherto unknown and rarely exceeded in a measure-by-measure analysis. This comes through with Kitto - a worthy text for a worthy subject.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 3, 2013 7:54 AM PDT

Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac 2009
Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac 2009

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful wine, January 8, 2013
This review is from: Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac 2009
I was fortunate to have a bottle of this last night at dinner with a friend. It is an absolutely glorious wine, but as my friend and I agreed, really should be held back for half a decade more at least (and perhaps a few decades) to let it mature. Unfortunately, most restaurants can no longer afford to lay up wines for a long period of time - many risk going out of business before the wine reaches optimum age.

This wine opened up beautifully after a just a few minutes. A bit of smokiness and a bit of flower in the bouquet, no acidity in the taste with good grape and currant tones, and a wonderful purple colour all combined to make this a real experience. This wine is four-fifths Cabernet and one-fifth Merlot, so it has strong body without being overpowering.

If you get the chance, don't pass!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2013 7:20 PM PST

On Liberty
On Liberty
by John Stuart Mill
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.09
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberty for all!, January 5, 2013
This review is from: On Liberty (Paperback)
It is surprising to me how many people assume that `On Liberty' was written before or during the American Revolution - Mill was certainly influenced by the spirit of American liberty, which was variously romanticised and adapted in Britain and Europe during the nineteenth century. Published in 1859, `On Liberty' is one of the primary political texts of the nineteenth century; perhaps only the writings of Marx had a similar impact, and of the two, in today's world, Mill's philosophy seems the one that is triumphant.

One of the interesting ideas behind `On Liberty' is that this may in fact be more the inspiration of Harriet Taylor (later Mrs. J.S. Mill) than of Mill himself; Taylor wrote an essay on Toleration, most likely in 1832, but it remained unpublished until after her death. F.A. Hayek (free-market economist and philosopher) noticed this connection. Whether this was the direct inspiration or not, the principles are similar, and the Mills were rather united in their views about liberty.

`On Liberty' is more of an extended essay than a book - it isn't very long (104 pages of the text in the Norton Critical Edition, edited by David Spitz). It relates as a political piece to his general Utilitarianism and political reform ideology. A laissez faire capitalist in political economy, his writing has been described as `improved Adam Smith' and `popularised Ricardo'. Perhaps it is in part the brevity of `On Liberty' that gives it an enduring quality.

There are five primary sections to the text. The introduction sets the stage philosophically and historically. He equates the histories of classical civilisations (Greece and Rome) with his contemporary England, stating that the struggle between liberty and authority is ever present and a primary feature of society. He does not hold with unbridled or unfettered democracy, either (contrary to some popular readings of his text) - he warns that the tyranny of the majority can be just as dangerous and damaging toward a society as any individual or oligarchic despotism. Mill looks for a liberty that permits individualism; thus, while democracy is an important feature for Mill, there must be a system of checks and balances that ensures individual liberties over and against this kind of system. All of these elements receive further development in subsequent sections.

The second section of the text is `Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion'. Freedom of speech and expression is an important aspect here. Mill presents a somewhat radical proposition that even should the government and the people be in complete agreement with regard to coercive action, it would still be an illegitimate power. This is an important consideration in today's world, as governments and people contemplate the curtailment of civil liberties in favour of increased security needs. The possibility of fallibility, according to Mill, makes the power illegitimate, and (again according to Mill) it doesn't matter if it affects many or only a few, people today or posterity. It is still wrong. Mill develops this argument largely by using the history of religious ideas and religious institutions, in addition to the political (since the two were so often inter-related).

The third section is perhaps the best known and most quoted, `Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being'. It is perhaps a natural consequence of Enlightenment thinking that individuality over communal and corporate identity would dominate. Our world today goes back and forth between individual and communal identities (nationality, regionality, employment, church affiliation, school affiliation, sports teams, etc.). Mill's ideas of individual are very modern, quite at home with the ideas of modern political and civil individuality, with all of the responsibilities.

Mill states, `No one pretends that actions should be as free as opinions.' He recognises the increased limitations on individual liberty given that we do live in communal settings, but this does not hinder the idea of individuality and individual liberty, particularly as it pertains to thoughts and speech. Mill explores various ideas of personal identity and action (medieval, Calvinist, etc.) to come up with an idea of individuality that is rather modern; of course, this is political personhood that pre-dates the advent of psychology/psychoanalytic theory that will give rise to a lot more confusion for the role of identity and personhood in society.

The fourth primary section looks theoretically at the individual in community, `Of the Limits to the Authority of Society Over the Individual'; the final section looks at specific applications. Mill discounts the idea of social contract while maintain that there is a mutual responsibility between individuals and community. Mill looks at the Temperance movements and laws as an example of bad laws (not only from the aspect of curtailment of liberty, but also for impractical aspects of enforcement); in similar examples, Mill looks at the role of society in regulating the life of the individual, calling on good government to always err on the side of the individual.

Mill puts it very directly -- Individuals are accountable only to themselves, unless their actions concern the interests of society at large. Few in the Western world would argue with this today; however, we still live in a world where `thought police' are feared, and `political correctness' is debated as appropriate or not with regard to individual liberties.

This should probably be required reading in civics classes, if not in the pre-university years for students, then certainly in the early university years.

Understanding the Political World: A Comparative Introduction to Political Science (11th Edition)
Understanding the Political World: A Comparative Introduction to Political Science (11th Edition)
by James N. Danziger
Edition: Paperback
Price: $114.58
82 used & new from $64.83

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful, accessible, and interesting, January 5, 2013
Over the past decade, I have taught the Intro. to Political Science (201) course several times at my local community college - despite the name of the course, it is often the second course students take, after the Intro. to American Government (101) course. I look forward to teaching it again, perhaps in this coming year. I have always used an edition of Danziger's text, and this latest incarnation will continue to be my choice.

This book introduces the basic elements of political philosophy, political theory, political parties, world politics and international relations, and political institutions. The first chapter sets the stage for the study of political science as a field of inquiry, helping to determine what is and is not an appropriately political question (as opposed to a psychological question, or an historical question, etc.). Obviously there will be overlap in disciplines, but this chapter does a good job at setting out some basic elements in what we know and how we know it with regard to politics.

The book then proceeds to discuss the topic in four major headings: political behaviour, political systems, political processes, and politics among states. For my purposes, I start with the later sections of world politics and work back - I find that students relate to the theories better after we've discussed particulars; this book is good at bringing up important elements and parallels across national lines, political parties, and cultural norms. This latest edition includes updated information on the Iraqi processes toward democracy, Chilean situations with the Mapuche people, Ireland's shift from economic dynamo to struggling economy, and the changing face of both China and the European Union in the modern world. To this extent, I'm working backwards from the way the book is organized, but each chapter does work as a self-contained set of data.

The book is generously supplied with graphics, images, charts and figures, as well as sidebar and boxed information that adds anecdotes, debates and useful discussion points and questions for further thought.

Ultimately, as Danziger states, `The study of the political world is of crucial importance to the creation of humane social life. Ultimately it is up to you, as you read this book, to decide what can be known about politics and whether you think political "science" is feasible.'

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