This book criticizes three basic concepts in Reinhold Niebuhr’s social thought: his views of human nature, interest, and power. Attention is directed especially at the way Niebuhr’s concepts lack sufficient historicity, obscure social and political dynamics, and, finally, lack adequate descriptive power. An alternative to each of these concepts is offered and used as a way to open up social thought to more complex analysis, more concrete and material uses, and a discussion of implications for alternative direction and action.
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- Critiques the theology of Niebuhr in a penetrating and relevant manner
- Discusses Niebuhr’s thoughts on themes such as human nature, interest, and power
- Pursues social justice in not only theory but practice as well
- Human Nature: The Transcendent and Finite Self
- Niebuhr’s View of Interest
- Niebuhr’s Concept of Power
- The Balance of Power in Niebuhr’s Social Thought
- Internal Power: A Brief Excursus of Formation in Niebuhr
- A Narrative Illustration
- Political Implications
Praise for the Print Edition
Tex Sample has written a shrewd and penetrating critique of Reinhold Niebuhr. With reference to recent critical theory, he goes beneath the generalizing abstractions to contextual work; he traces the way in which our attentiveness to contextual differences has advanced since Niebuhr. Future work on Niebuhr will want to take Sample’s study into close consideration.
—Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
Sample deftly moves between theory and practice to produce a lively interpretation of Reinhold Niebuhr focused on his social thought. Using the themes of human nature, interest, and power he guides the reader into Niebuhr’s world to ask how he is or is not relevant for the thorny realities of our contemporary world. Grounded by his lifelong pursuit of social justice, this is Tex Sample at his best—probing, candid, rigorous, and relevant.
—Emilie M. Townes, associate dean of academic affairs, Yale Divinity School
Tex Sample stands among a small number of theologians who understand theory must be informed by practice and experience. His critical challenges to Niebuhr’s concepts of power and self-interest reflect both his serious engagement as a scholar of Niebuhr and his on-the-ground experience as a leader with the Industrial Areas Foundation organizations in Arizona
—Ernesto Cortes, cochair, executive director, Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation
About Tex Sample
Tex Sample is the Robert B. and Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society at the Saint Paul School of Theology, Kansas City. Author of 10 previous books, his most recent is The Future of John Wesley’s Theology (Cascade, 2012). Sample is a freelance speaker and workshop leader in the United States as well as overseas. He is also active in broad-based organizing in Phoenix, Arizona.