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Good Society (Vintage) [Paperback]

By Robert N. Bellah (Author), Richard Madsen (Author) & Ann Swidler (With)
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Item description for Good Society (Vintage) by Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen & Ann Swidler...

At a time when many of our institutions--from the family to government itself--are in disrepair or disrepute, the authors of the bestselling Habits of the Heart examine how those institutions fell from grace and offer concrete proposals for revitalizing them.

Publishers Description
THE GOOD SOCIETY examines how many of our institutions- from the family to the government itself- fell from grace, and offers concrete proposals for revitalizing them.
"THE GOOD SOCIETY is not only thought-provoking but also deeply moving....This book should be widely read, discussed, and argued about in public. It is the beginning of a conversation that must continue and expand."--Utne Reader

Citations And Professional Reviews
Good Society (Vintage) by Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen & Ann Swidler has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Publishers Weekly - 07/06/1992

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Vintage
Pages   368
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 18, 1992
Publisher   Vintage
ISBN  0679733590  
ISBN13  9780679733591  

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More About Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen & Ann Swidler

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Robert N. Bellah is the Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He coauthored "The Good Society" and "Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life," which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and has sold more than 500,000 copies. His other books include "Imagining Japan," "The Broken Covenant," " "and "Beyond Belief." In 2000 President Clinton awarded Bellah the National Humanities Medal.

Steven M. Tipton teaches sociology and religion at Emory University and its Candler School of Theology, where he is a Professor and Director of the Graduate Division of Religion. He is the author of "Getting Saved from the Sixties" and "Public Pulpits" (forthcoming) and a coauthor of "The Good Society" and "Habits of the Heart."

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 20th Century > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > General
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > General
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > Social Theory

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Reviews - What do customers think about Good Society (Vintage)?

a classic that still deserves its classic status  Sep 23, 2007
This book remains a classic, for good reason; it's Sociology at its best, and writing at its most lucid, interesting and significant.
They won't reach a wide audience  Feb 5, 2003
"The Good Society" is a thick book brought to us from the same people who wrote "Habits of the Heart." I never read that book, but if it is anything like "The Good Society," I think I will take a pass on it. Maybe my slightly negative opinion of this book is due to the fact that it was required reading for a class. Assigned reading often leads to disappointment and disillusionment. I avoided reading literature for years because of the Gestapo-like tactics of high school English teachers. What is surprising is that this book covers topics I am usually interested in learning about. I guess we can't win them all.

The main thesis of "The Good Society" is simple: we, meaning American society, are no longer in control of our institutions. The authors define institutions in a broad sweep, encompassing economic, political, religious, educational, law, and international organizations and bodies (while curiously ignoring the media, the most egregious institution of them all because they help prop up all of the other ones). Only by regaining control over institutions, by making them responsive to democratic ideals, can we achieve what the authors refer to as a "good society." An introductory chapter introduces the reader to several individuals involved in daily life, from a woman working for a company facing a merger to a couple attempting to help the poor in an underdeveloped urban area to an economist forced to make cost-benefit analyses with people's lives. Each of these people understands there is something wrong with the way they do things and the results of their actions. The authors point out that this is because people no longer challenge, let alone recognize, the underlying institutions responsible for our lives. For example, the woman facing problems from the company merger does not think to question the underlying economic system that reduces her to a mere number on a piece of paper. In short, people consider institutions as fixed, permanent entities impervious to change.

Central to this theme of institutional chaos is an examination of John Locke's belief in the rugged individual determining his own future in the social and economic realm. The authors argue that this old belief is no longer valid in today's world even though people still cling to those ideas. Through an examination of the economic history of the United States, "The Good Society" shows how the emergence of huge capitalist enterprises at the end of the 19th century effectively blunted any hopes that an individual could control his destiny. Even more dangerous to the Lockean ideal as it appears in the modern consciousness is the realization that corporations are not subject to democratic restrictions. Unfortunately, many institutions imitate or act as a support system (again, the media being the most rabid supporter) to corporations in today's society, with a concomitant resiliency to the type of public responsibility required in a healthy democratic state.

All of this high falutin' talk sounds interesting to those who live and breath politics or believe that corporations are out to run the world. But the book goes beyond mere political discourse to include analyses on education, religion, and law. Time and time again, the authors discover a sense of powerlessness among citizens when it comes to dealing with public institutions. A chapter on education shows how students who should come away with a broad area of knowledge end up as stooges for the business world. The section on religion reveals very little about deep theological discussion but much about how to cope in a world run by elites operating with the agendas of profit and politics. What ultimately emerges is how little effect real people are having on any social system existing today. The individual is dead, replaced by Howard Beale's humanoids, creatures that look human but are not as we gamely try to keep abreast of our chaotic, soulless institutions.

The book concludes with some recommendations about how to restore sanity. I do not really want to insult the authors, but these points for the recovery of our institutions are about as useless as Saddam Hussein running for president of the United States in 2004. For any type of sweeping change to work in this society, a devoted and dedicated populace is paramount. Instead, we have some 200 million couch potatoes, work dodgers, and celebrity worshippers. As long as the ballgame is on television, the mall is open, and the car is in the garage most people are content to let things ride.

The biggest problem I had with this book was the dense language. It seemed as though the authors had a problem paring their ideas down to a manageable length. I personally do not have a problem reading a big book with difficult prose, but if the authors wished to stay true to their goal of informing the public about institutional problems they failed miserably. "The Good Society" is just not accessible to the general population. Many people I know would read roughly one page of the text and put it down in a hurry. How are you going to solve the problems of unresponsive institutions when people will not turn off the television long enough to realize they need to become a force for change?

"The Good Society" covers interesting ground, but the treatment needs some serious editing in order to reach a wider audience.

Individuals and Institutions  Jan 5, 2000
This book by Robert Bellah and his colleagues elaborates upon the need for re-thinking the relationships between individuals and social institutions. Each of the major topical chapters includes an historical overview and practical suggestions for institutional change.
An excellent visioning and follow-up to Habits of the Heart  Feb 12, 1999
This book is required reading for our Organizational Psych program as we look at the context in which organizational dynamics, and problems, develop. If you thought Bellah et al. made a case about communitarian values in Habits, then here you can go forward with them... Something to ruminate on.

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