Robert Nisbet: The Quest for Community

A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom

Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2010 (1953)

Book Description:

One of the leading thinkers to emerge in the postwar conservative intellectual revival was the sociologist Robert Nisbet. His book The Quest for Community, published in 1953, stands as one of the most persuasive accounts of the dilemmas confronting modern society.

Nearly a half century before Robert Putnam documented the atomization of society in Bowling Alone, Nisbet argued that the rise of the powerful modern state had eroded the sources of community – the family, the neighborhood, the church, the guild. Alienation and loneliness inevitably resulted. But as the traditional ties that bind fell away, the human impulse toward community led people to turn even more to the government itself, allowing statism – even totalitarianism – to flourish.

ISI Books is proud to present this new edition of Nisbet’s magnum opus, featuring a brilliant introduction by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and three critical essays. Published at a time when our communal life has only grown weaker and when many Americans display cultish enthusiasm for a charismatic president, this new edition of The Quest for Community shows that Nisbet’s insights are as relevant today as ever.

Back Cover of the Institute for Contemporary Studies edition (1990):

The Quest for Community stands among the most important social critiques ever written. The first book by the man the New York Times calls “one of our most original social thinkers”, Robert Nisbet’s study explores how individualism and statism have flourished while the primary sources of human community – the family, neighborhoods, the church, and voluntary organizations – have grown weaker. First published in 1953, this timeles work is a seminal contribution ot the understanding of the spiritual and intellectual crisis of Western society.

With a new introduction by William A. Schambra that places the book in a contemporary perspective, Quest for Community deseres to tbe reread in the light of events that have confirmed its provocative thesis.

“I have read it with much interest and substantial agreement…It should do its good work in the long run, and to me at least it is one of the more hopeful signs.”  T. S. Eliot

“I have read the book with great interest and enthusiasm. I think you have stated all our problems of community with great astuteness and fairness, and have pointed to the creative answers for which we must seek.”  Reinhold Niebuhr

“Masterful.”  Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

About the Author:

Robert Nisbet was professor of socioloty at Columbia University and is the author of The Sociological Tradition, The Social Bond, The Degradation of the Academic Dogma, The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America, Roosevelt and Stalin: The Failed Courtship, Twilight of Authority, Tradition and Revolt; The History of the Idea of Progress, Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary, and Conservatism: Dream and Reality.

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