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Manliness Hardcover – February 6, 2006

3.6 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harvard government professor Mansfield delves into philosophy, literature and science to define manliness and to argue that it should have a place in an increasingly non-gender-specific society. Throughout, Mansfield clearly states his intentions, and though he may have convinced himself he accomplished his goals, readers will be skeptical; when, for example, he sets out to "elevate manliness from aggression to assertion and thereby discover its connection to politics," he jumps from Hemingway to Achilles before posing a question that has little more than a thin patina of importance: "In our time there are many who say that heroes lack humanity and few who will admit that humanity needs heroes. But at all times heroes have to assert themselves. The question is, what is in it for us?" Similar murky questions and non-sequitur lines of logic continue throughout: "Man has fearsome powers of wisdom and fire over beasts. All beasts fear fire, which perhaps represents the Promethean gift of technology." This clunky chain of supposition is followed by a brief foray into The Jungle Book. But Mansfield's theories on gender equality are likely to create the most conversation: "women are the weaker sex," "women's bodies are made to attract and to please men" and "now that women are equal, they should be able to accept being told that they aren't, quite" all appear on the same page. Mansfield set out to write a provocative book, but ended up penning a juvenile screed.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Annoying at times (often!), but never uninteresting, this book has much of importance to say."—Arlene Saxonhouse, University of Michigan

(Arlene Saxonhouse)

"A work of thought as well as a provocation, Manliness deserves to be widely read, argued over, and pondered."— David Bromwich, Yale University

(David Bromwich)

"Mansfield argues that manliness—in its combination of stubbornness and rationality—provides a ground for political life. His work is a thoughtful attempt to move us to think more clearly about who we are, and about the future of our liberal society."—Mary Nichols, Baylor University

(Mary Nichols)

It’s a subtle exploration about the virtues and vices of the thymotic urge."—Frank Rich, New York Times 

(Frank Rich 4. New York Times)

“Mansfield’s defense of what, politically, has become indefensible by anyone wanting to keep his reputation intact is most welcome.”—Theodore Dalrymple, American Enterprise

(Theodore Dalrymple American Enterprise)

“Mansfield argues that efforts in Western society to equalize the status of men and women are doomed to failure.”—Kevin Horrigan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

(Kevin Horrigan St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"[This] new book entitled simply Manliness amounts to a spirited defense of the male psychology."—Joseph R. Phelan, Washington Times

(Joseph R. Phelan Washington Times)

“Amusing, refreshing, and outrageous observations. . . . Many readers will be grateful to him for his candor and bravado.”—Christina Hoff Somers, Weekly Standard
(Christina Hoff Somers Weekly Standard)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; annotated edition edition (February 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300106645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300106640
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Aaker on September 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Liberal intellectuals are attempting to bring the rating down with lengthy diatribes meant to impress us by their size and not by their wit, as if words were weights to be lifted in which the more, the more impressive. Mansfield has created a spectacular book that any half-serious thinker will have a very difficult time refuting.
The incredible wit and gravitas of Mansfield makes for a compelling account of what manliness is, and I'm so sorry but no, he is not politically correct.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For the sake of disclosure, I have not read the entire book yet, but went through it quickly, and know its tone and content. Also, I am a free-thinking, liberal, confident female, who (to paraphrase Mansfield) has studied men all my life (40+ years). I love men, and yet find many of them just tragically confused, unaware of what being a man is all about.

This book is worth reading by anyone who is interested in gender relations -- and aren't we all. It does not appear to me that it is an anti-woman book, as the first Amazon reviewer (below) suggests.

I absolutely agree with Mansfield's opinion that being a man is about having "confidence in risky situations". That negative reviewer was totally on shaky grounds (logic-wise) arguing that it is an insult to women (because to her, it meant that Masfiled thinks that courage is just a masculine trait).

Women can be as courageous, or more, as men. But that's not the issue. The issue is that if you are a woman, and you hapen to be shy, timid, or downright cowardly, you can still feel like a woman -- i.e. feminine, true to your gender.

Courage is not expected of women in our culture to the extent it is expected of men (though I hope it will gradually change because it is a sign of inequality). Many people -- men or women - have a hard time differentiating, on the gut level, between courage that may entail physical danger, and emotional/intellectual courage. Someone who is weaker physically may instinctively shy away from sticking his/her head out.
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Format: Hardcover
I strongly disagree with the arguments and conclusions in Mansfield's book. I give it four stars because it is a well-argued and well-organized book on an important topic. Mansfield does a great service because he lays bare for us the moral and ethical and philosophical roots of his version of "manliness," and in the process of reading and re-reading his book and finding where I disagree with him, it helped me think more clearly about what I do consider real manliness and courage. And that's what a good book should do.

Most of us know from real-life experience that the biggest bullies are often some of the most insecure males (and females) around. Read the book "Warriors, Workers, Whiners and Weasels"Warriors, Workers, Whiners, & Weasels: Understanding and Using The Four Personality Types To Your Advantage and you'll quickly recognize the ones most likely to seize on Mansfield's arguments about "manly" men will often be the insecure weasels rather than the warriors. When you unpack it, the book Manliness really amounts to an elaborate set of excuses for Napoleon, Hitler, the neighborhood bully, and any other insecure males (or females) out there. These are the first ones to be overly concerned about what everyone thinks of them and want to convince everyone their pushy obnoxious and deceitful actions are a sign of strength, rather than an outgrowth of their huge inner doubts and insecurity.

Mansfield opens his book with tales about brave and tragic heroes in Greek legend. After he mentions the Greek word "arete" (courage, excellence) a few times, he replaces the word bravery with the more value-free words confidence (or assertiveness) through the rest of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
A previous reader declares the work "bigotry" but is simply wrong. As one of the few "liberal" students of Professor Mansfield, I can assure readers that such a charge is utterly unfounded. After taking the summer of 1964 to work with SNCC and COFO in Mississippi registering blacks to vote, I returned to Harvard in a state that can only be described as "shellshock." Mansfield both accepted my need to go down to Mississippi and offered his support on my return as a student trying to write a thesis after such an experience. I learned to spot bigots with my eyes closed in Mississippi and Mansfield does not match the description. Faced with clubs, bullets, and dynamite, I needed some detachment--R&R--to recover my humanity. I found it studying with Professor Mansfield. I may not fit the stereotype among his students: I am still a "liberal"--indeed a Quaker (in part because of their attitudes toward blacks and women)--but I never found any lack of respect from Mansfield for my position. I may not agree with him on many points but I do not indulge in ignorant name-calling. Anyone who has read Mansfield's previous books would know they are all worthy of profound consideration. I look forward to reading this one, no matter how much I may differ in my opinions. He is, in language borrowed from Northrup Frye, an "eiron" in the clothing of an "alazon." A little humor and even more wit from prospective readers will go a long way in approaching his books. I will add more after I read the book but I could not bear to see so unjust a characterization in a public place. It would have been "unmanly" for me not to respond with the information I have provided.
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