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Publisher's Summary

Forged during the tumultuous but triumphant postwar years when America came of age as a world power, The Irony of American History is more relevant now than ever before. Cited by politicians as diverse as Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Niebuhr's masterpiece on the incongruity between personal ideals and political reality is both an indictment of American moral complacency and a warning against the arrogance of virtue.

Impassioned, eloquent, and deeply perceptive, Niebuhr's wisdom will cause listeners to rethink their assumptions about right and wrong, war and peace.

©2008 Reinhold Niebuhr (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The "Peter Drucker" of Political Science

Niebuhr offers amazingly prescient insights highly relevant to today's world from his perch in 1950's America. Just one example: his analysis of the forces that might make a case for and warnings of the likely disastrous consequences of "preemptive war" are just eery with our contemporary back drop of foreign wars. His declarative style is reminiscent of the father of modern management thinking, Peter Drucker. Both thinkers see patterns and the seeds of emerging trends invisible to the rest of us.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Superlative Book

Brilliant. Brilliant. And again I say brilliant. Scintillating insight. Gem-like clarity. Relentless unmasking of illusions. This book is said to be highly admired by President Obama; nevertheless, it is politically uncategorizable. In spite of its brevity, impossible to absorb in one listening/reading. Well read. New introduction.

Audible is to be applauded for making this book available. How about more by Niebuhr?

30 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Get a new narrator

This book is incredibly profound. Unfortunately its narrator distracts from the message with a stilted accent. Is he British? Wealthy from New England? In the end, it makes listening to the book a trying experience. A deep Southern drawl would be less trying. Please get Grover Gardner or someone who can read a powerful book without testing the listener's patience.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Very dry, uninspired reading . . . .

Would you consider the audio edition of The Irony of American History to be better than the print version?

Drawn from 2 Niebuhr speeches on the ironic contradictions of American Foreign Policy in the face of Communism, the book offers a powerful critique of several pedantic myths underlying that Policy. If, as Andrew Bacevich opines in the introduction, the book is "the most important book ever written on US foreign policy," one might expect its reading to give effect to that power by drawing upon its oral beginnings. Where one might expect the reading to create a sense of intrigue that sends the listener back to the written word for affirmation of Niebuhr's most compelling points, the listener is instead sent scurrying back to the book in a desperate attempt to discern Niebuhr's intended meaning and to ascertain "what's the big deal about this book?"

How did the narrator detract from the book?

He ruined it, see above.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Very early, Niebuhr explains the ironic similarities with the naivety of Christian idealism and the naivety of Communist thought, which for me, was jaw-droppingly powerful stuff.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

"Nothing in history is inevitable."

"Sometimes the irony in our historic situation is derived from the extravagant emphasis in our culture upon the value and dignity of the individual and upon individual liberty as the final value of life."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr

I read/listened to this (I'll often do both) on a plane ride from Malta back home to AZ. It was probably the only positive aspect of travel. Normally, I wouldn't consider a book of philosophy to be a travel book/beach read, but Niebuhr's prose was so clean and his ideas expressed so well that I could have read it anywhere and not been distracted. It is also a small enough book that it is easy to read in one long session (broken up three times with pretzels, diet Coke, and a warm towel). I'm also fairly fanatical about NOT inking up my books. I use Post It Tabs excessively while reading. However, this book was so quotable. Had so many lines and ideas that I broke down and just started underlining with a pen [GASP]. All of this preamble is meant to do is inform you, reader, of HOW much I enjoyed every page and every minute of this book.

The new edition is introduced by one of my favorite historians/military historians/Imperial theorists - Andrew Bacevich. He has written several books on American Empire and military policy (The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, and America's War for the Greater Middle East) that are all built (more or less) using a very Niebuhrian framework. Between Bacevich and Obama loving Reinhold Niebuhr, my quiet clap seems hardly needed.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Isn’t it Ironic...

Rieholdt Niebuhr is one of the most fascinating theologians/philosophers in all of American history. He was heavily involved in politics, yet was notoriously difficult to pin down to one side. Even today, Niebuhr’s writings are invoked by both liberals and conservatives alike. Case in point: Reiholdt Niebuhr was once investigated by the FBI for being a possible communist, even though his writings were noticeably anti-communist. More recently, Former FBI Director James Comey went by the name “Reiholdt Niebuhr” on Twitter.

Niebuhr’s most famous book, “Moral Man and Immortal Society,” remains a classic and was a favorite of men such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “The Irony of American History” is Niebuhr’s second most famous book, but in many ways it might be his best. This book is actually a series of lectures given on American history, so listening to it in audio form is actually a more authentic experience. The ideas contained within are, like Niebuhr himself, impossible to summarize. In short, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more fascinating take on American religious/political/historical thought than this. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Important prespectives from a respected scholar

Where does The Irony of American History rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It ranks among the lower half. In the book, published in the early 1950's contains references to events current at that time, but long since past. The author's comments about "the oriental" viewpoints seem vastly oversimplified as he lumps together the different cultures of India, China, and Japan.

What didn’t you like about Robert Blumenfeld’s performance?

Robert Blumenfeld's performance was the weak point of this audiobook for two reasons. First, he spoke too quickly making it difficult to consider the important points the author was making. Second, the narrator spoke as if he was delivering a sermon to a large assembly. A more conversational delivery as one would expect from a guest in one's home would have been more effective

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Profound and brilliant

This is a profound study of the human condition and of the relationships between nations. It is very nicely read. More Niebuhr please, Audible!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

not worth it

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

a better reader

Has The Irony of American History turned you off from other books in this genre?

no, only ones read by this person

What didn’t you like about Robert Blumenfeld’s performance?

his voice and delivery

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Irony of American History?

it is so dated and many of the subjects have been eclipsed by events

Any additional comments?

can I return it?

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Overall good.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Irony of American History to be better than the print version?

I prefer reading, but I've read this before and was refreshing myself on the subject while working.

What did you like best about this story?

That's hard to pinpoint in this format of review.

Which scene was your favorite?

?

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

n/a

Any additional comments?

I would love to see audiobook editions of other books authored by Niebuhr.