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Bellah Slide Show HMXP 102 Dr. Fike. Vocabulary With a partner, find definitions for at least two of these terms: Gemeinschaft (144) ontological individualism.

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Presentation on theme: "Bellah Slide Show HMXP 102 Dr. Fike. Vocabulary With a partner, find definitions for at least two of these terms: Gemeinschaft (144) ontological individualism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Bellah Slide Show HMXP 102 Dr. Fike

2 Vocabulary With a partner, find definitions for at least two of these terms: Gemeinschaft (144) ontological individualism (145) lifeworld (146) democratic communitarianism (146-47) subsidiarity (147) natural liberty (150) true liberty deracinate oligarchy (151) silent depression (151-52)

3 Background on Robert N. Bellah brief biohttp://www.robertbellah.com/ ml: more extensive biohttp://www.robertbellah.com/biography.ht ml ahhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_N._Bell ah

4 Bellah’s Biography “Robert Neelly Bellah is an American sociologist and educator, who for 30 years served as professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. His books on the sociology of religion, including Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditional World (1970), The Broken Covenant (1975), Habits of the Heart (1985), and The Good Society (1991), have shaped the discipline. In 1985, Habits of the Heart won The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for "Current Interest" and, in 1986, was a Jury Nominee for the Pulitzer Prize in General Non-fiction. In 2000, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Clinton.” Source:

5 First Text Bellah, “Community Properly Understood: A Defense of ‘Democratic Communitarianism”

6 To Begin with… First question: What is community according to Bellah? See pages (left column).

7 Definition of “Community” Community is not merely Gemeinschaft (face-to- face groups). Nor is community only a matter of contract (the liberal view). Instead, Bellah argues, there is a continuum involving community and contract "as a necessary complementarity" (145). Moreover, community requires shared values and goals, and argument/conflict over shared values is desirable (cf. J.S. Mill).

8 Implication Second question: What implication follows from this definition of community as a continuum involving shared values and goals as well as contract? See 145 (right column).

9 Answer Bellah is against “ontological individualism,” which is “the belief that the truth of our condition is not in our society or in our relation to others, but in our isolated and inviolable selves” (145). Cf. Emerson for an opposing view. He opposes it because it elevates individual opportunity over the common good.

10 False Dichotomy Third question: What False Dichotomy Emerges? See 145 (right column) to 146 (left column).

11 False Dichotomy Market (Republican, conservative) vs. state (Democrat, liberal). Bellah considers this “polarity” false and criticizes it for not saying much about “substantive values” (146). And besides, we live not in an ideological universe void of families but in a “lifeworld,” which means community (146). Here is Bellah’s full definition of “lifeworld”: “the place where we communicate with others, deliberate, come to agreements about standards and norms, pursue in common an effort to create a valuable form of life” (146).

12 Favored View Fourth question: What view does Bellah favor? See 146 (left column) to 147. Be sure to identify the four points that Bellah makes.

13 Democratic Communitarianism = Bellah’s Favored View Bellah’s borrowed term, “democratic communitarianism,” is not an alternative to market and state; however, by emphasizing four values related to community, it provides "a humane context" for thinking about market and state (146). Here are the values: –the sacredness of the individual as realized through community (healthy persons require healthy communities; cf. Menkiti) –solidarity (“we become who we are through our relationships” [146]) –a variety of social groups –participation is “a right and a duty,” along with the principle of subsidiarity (“the groups closest to a problem should attend to it”; the state is necessary [146]).

14 Distinction Fifth question: What does Bellah say that politics is NOT about? See 147 (last par.).

15 Distinction Politics should not be about the “summing of individual preferences” (147). Morality must also be a factor (you should do what is right even if it is unpopular: that is the implication).

16 Summary Bellah is trying to get us to think about community not just as small groups but also as aggregates of any size, including “the world as a community” (147). He also wants us to emphasize the collective good and not merely personal preference. He sees a definite role for government, but government must be attuned to values, by which he means something other than the standard liberal/conservative dichotomy—and definitely something other than popular opinion.

17 Here are two statements from your book. Do you agree with one or the other? Do you agree with each to some degree? Why or why not? Write for 10 minutes in your notebooks. Give an example, take a position, and give reasons to support it. WHY do you believe what you believe? Bellah 145: He is critical of ontological individualism because it “tempts us to imagine that it is opportunity that will solve all our problems—if we could just provide individuals the opportunity to realize themselves, then everything else would take care of itself. If we focus on individual opportunity then we don’t need to worry about substantive agreement or the common good, much less force any such notion on others. Each individual can concentrate on whatever good he or she chooses to pursue.” Emerson 51-52: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,--that is genius…. What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within?” LARGE GROUP DISCUSSION OF YOUR RESPONSES

18 Focused Listing & Large-Group Discussion Now write down some groups that you are a part of. Make a list. Ask yourself if your group membership bears out the notion of democratic communitarianism (sacredness of the individual, solidarity in relationships, a variety of social groups, participation as a right and a duty, subsidiarity). Are you a citizen of the world, just a small-group type of person, or something in between?

19 Work in Pairs To Answer These Questions Bellah wants us to think critically (argue about) goals and social issues. What are some issues that you think are important to a properly functioning community? What are some values that you hold dear in your community? Why do you believe what you believe?

20 Next Text Bellah, “Why Do We Need a Public Affairs Mission?—The Moral Crisis in American Public Life”

21 Questions about Freedom Which do you favor--natural liberty or true liberty (150, left column, middle)? Is freedom all about doing anything you want to do? Is “true freedom” “the freedom only to do that which is good, just and honest”? Would most of us consider these two approaches to freedom to be a false dichotomy? Is a continuum a better model? How do you respond to the implication that following your desires is not freedom but a type of bondage? Since we are communal beings, can we ever be truly free? What is the essence of freedom in your opinion? What is your definition of it?

22 Various Other Questions Do we have any leaders today who advocate what is morally right? What are the fundamental issues that we face today? How are morality and class structure related? How do the parts of this text relate? Bellah talks about freedom; then he discusses the elite vs. the “global underclass.” What’s the connection? Do we have what John Edwards calls “two Americas”? Do you hear echoes of Marx’s ideas in Bellah’s text? What IS “The Moral Crisis in American Public Life”? What is the “Public Affairs Mission” that he prescribes? END


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