Over at Commonweal, James Fredericks and Andrew Bacevich have an informative exchange on the contemporary value of Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History.
Here is a nice synopsis of Frederick’s part of the article:
Niebuhr’s critique of democratic politics was built on three observations about human nature. The first was that we habitually justify our political institutions by cloaking them in an aura of sanctity. In this regard, he was a persistent critic of American exceptionalism, the profoundly Protestant notion that America has been singled out by God as a uniquely virtuous nation. Second, he held that despite the illusions of control and destiny political ideologies foster, history is intractable, its course and direction ultimately beyond human comprehension. Finally, Niebuhr argued that American history offers little evidence for either a triumphalist or a tragic interpretation, but rather is fundamentally ironic in nature.
And a synopsis of Bacevich’s part: