The Art of Living Together: The Relationship Between Individual and Society in Reinhold Niebuhr's Political Thought

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

The relationship between individual and society is a crucial aspect in Reinhold Niebuhr’s political thought. The Protestant theologian is usually regarded only for the idea of the existence of a profound and incompatible divergence between the moral and social behavior of both individuals and groups which he conceived in Moral Man and Immoral Society. This chapter argues that this interpretation is very reductive. It argues instead that Niebuhr developed a more complex conception of the political and social coexistence, intrinsically rooted in a Christian view of human nature. Indeed, Christian realism holds that human nature contains self-regarding and social impulses and that the former is stronger than the latter. Although society is less moral than any individual and potentially dominated by collective egoism, he believes that human beings can overcome the latter in order to achieve tolerable forms of justice in each state and to tame anarchy in international system. Through a solid anti-utopianist and anti-hubris approach, he has shown that, living always on the edge between fear and hope, human beings and societies display the amazing art of living together.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligion and the Liberal State in Niebuhr's Christian Realism
EditorsChristoph Rohde
Pages35-56
Number of pages22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Reinhold Niebuhr
  • Christian Realism
  • State
  • Communities
  • Society
  • Politics
  • Human Beings

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