Nemesis and Fulness: Reinhold Niebuhr's Vision of History, 1927-1934

Hdl Handle:
http://hdl.handle.net/10756/288507
Title:
Nemesis and Fulness: Reinhold Niebuhr's Vision of History, 1927-1934
Authors:
Moquist, Tod Nolan
Abstract:
There are many excellent studies of the life and thought of Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), prominent Christian ethicist, social philosopher, and political activist of the American Century. Most studies focus on his mature works of mid-century, particularly his theological ethics. The following study treats his emergent theory of history between 1927-1934, especially the idea of progress and the narrative of modern capitalist society. During this formative period Niebuhr wrote three major books (Does Civilization Need Religion? [1927], Moral Man and Immoral Society [1932], and Reflections on the End of an Era [1934]) which reflect his intellectual passage from religious liberalism and the politics of persuasion to "Christian-Marxism" and the politics of power. The following thesis will trace the diverse historiographical influences found in these works, from the church-historical perspective of Ernst Troeltsch to the dialectical materialism of Karl Marx. It is common to say that Niebuhr was purely a theologian of history. But following Ricoeur and White, I describe the main ingredients of a philosophy of history that are present in these writings: myth, plot, social processes, patterns of progress and cycle. Moreover, he was a "thinker in time"--these philosophical elements combined to render a plausible and meaningful narrative context for social action. In the early period Niebuhr began his lifelong critique of Enlightenment, capitalism, and the idea of progress. Following Robert Nisbet's analysis of the concept of progress in Western cultural history, I will argue that Niebuhr traverses his own peculiar dialectics of history, moving from the idea of progress-as-freedom (in the twenties) to the idea of progress-as-power (in the thirties); from the form of irony to the form of tragedy; from the concept of the voluntary reform of the excesses of captialism to the concept of the frank use of coercion to implement a socialist alternative to captialism. His philosophy of history in this period thus reflects in Christian idiom aspects of the very antinomies of the Enlightenment regarding personality and power, freedom and fate, which he desires to overcome.
Advisors:
McIntire, Thomas
Affiliation:
Institute for Christian Studies
Publisher:
Institute for Christian Studies
Issue Date:
Jan-2001
URI:
http://hdl.handle.net/10756/288507
Type:
Thesis
Language:
en
Keywords:
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971; Socialism; Christianity
Rights:
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/
Rights holder:
This Work has been made available by the authority of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private study and research and may not be copied or reproduced except as permitted by the copyright laws of Canada without the written authority from the copyright owner.
Degree Title:
Master of Philosophical Foundations
Appears in Collections:
Masters Theses

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.advisorMcIntire, Thomasen_GB
dc.contributor.authorMoquist, Tod Nolanen_GB
dc.date.accessioned2013-05-06T13:57:56Z-
dc.date.available2013-05-06T13:57:56Z-
dc.date.availableNO_RESTRICTIONen_GB
dc.date.issued2001-01-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10756/288507-
dc.description.abstractThere are many excellent studies of the life and thought of Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), prominent Christian ethicist, social philosopher, and political activist of the American Century. Most studies focus on his mature works of mid-century, particularly his theological ethics. The following study treats his emergent theory of history between 1927-1934, especially the idea of progress and the narrative of modern capitalist society. During this formative period Niebuhr wrote three major books (Does Civilization Need Religion? [1927], Moral Man and Immoral Society [1932], and Reflections on the End of an Era [1934]) which reflect his intellectual passage from religious liberalism and the politics of persuasion to "Christian-Marxism" and the politics of power. The following thesis will trace the diverse historiographical influences found in these works, from the church-historical perspective of Ernst Troeltsch to the dialectical materialism of Karl Marx. It is common to say that Niebuhr was purely a theologian of history. But following Ricoeur and White, I describe the main ingredients of a philosophy of history that are present in these writings: myth, plot, social processes, patterns of progress and cycle. Moreover, he was a "thinker in time"--these philosophical elements combined to render a plausible and meaningful narrative context for social action. In the early period Niebuhr began his lifelong critique of Enlightenment, capitalism, and the idea of progress. Following Robert Nisbet's analysis of the concept of progress in Western cultural history, I will argue that Niebuhr traverses his own peculiar dialectics of history, moving from the idea of progress-as-freedom (in the twenties) to the idea of progress-as-power (in the thirties); from the form of irony to the form of tragedy; from the concept of the voluntary reform of the excesses of captialism to the concept of the frank use of coercion to implement a socialist alternative to captialism. His philosophy of history in this period thus reflects in Christian idiom aspects of the very antinomies of the Enlightenment regarding personality and power, freedom and fate, which he desires to overcome.en_GB
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/pdf-
dc.language.isoenen
dc.publisherInstitute for Christian Studiesen_GB
dc.rightsAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported-
dc.rights.urihttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/-
dc.subjectNiebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971en_GB
dc.subjectSocialismen_GB
dc.subjectChristianityen_GB
dc.subject.lcshNiebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971--Socialismen_GB
dc.subject.lcshNiebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971--Christianityen_GB
dc.subject.lcshSocialismen_GB
dc.subject.lcshChristianity--20th centuryen_GB
dc.subject.lcshNiebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971. Does civilization need religion?en_GB
dc.subject.lcshNiebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971. Moral man and immoral societyen_GB
dc.subject.lcshNiebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971. Reflections on the end of an eraen_GB
dc.titleNemesis and Fulness: Reinhold Niebuhr's Vision of History, 1927-1934en
dc.typeThesisen
dc.contributor.departmentInstitute for Christian Studiesen_GB
dc.type.degreetitleMaster of Philosophical Foundationsen_GB
dc.rights.holderThis Work has been made available by the authority of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private study and research and may not be copied or reproduced except as permitted by the copyright laws of Canada without the written authority from the copyright owner.en_GB
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