Book report on ‘The Good Society’
1) The American society is highly individualistic (p. 19).
2) The American definition of democracy does not fit the needs of the people (p. 52).
3) The people have left key economic decisions to politicians (p. 83)
4) Division of labor has led to social stratification (p. 92)
5) Capitalism is a major problem affecting the American society (p. 298)
6) The law is used to support the rich in their quest to increase political and financial power (p. 123).
7) The education system requires changes that are in line with the needs of the society (p. 166).
8) Religion is a key factor that influences people’s decisions in all spheres of life (p. 179).
9) Public morality is the only way to a good society (p. 67).
10) The decisions made by Americans affect the country’s position in the world (p. 220).
Key Lessons on political discourse:
1) Politics should not be a place for only the elite, all people in the society should be part of politics through popular participation.
2) True freedom involves letting the people’s voice prevail in the society.
3) Public discussions enhance mutual understanding on issues affecting the society.
4) The government is a representative of the people and should focus on improving the lives of the people.
5) Justice systems are a part of a democratic society and should be of service to the needs of the people.
6) The American foreign policy is an avenue through which the country asserts itself to the rest of the world.
7) Economic prosperity is an issue that creates much debate on the political front.
8) Religion is an essential part of the society that should be used to create a morally upright society.
9) The law is one of the major pillars that the country is governed upon. All political discourse should be in accordance to the law.
10) Democracy can only be achieved when the whole society is well represented and the people are free to participate in political and economic decisions.
Robert Bellah in The Good Society presents an argument that touches on the connection of the social and political institutions in the American society. The book specifically focuses on explaining how the society relates to the political environment in the country. The book discusses issues that affect the American people in all aspects, be it political, educational and even religious. According to the authors, the book analyzes the contribution of the people to the political decisions that the country makes. The book is critical of the current situation in the society and how people participate in the decision-making processes.
One of the major arguments presented by this book is the individualistic nature of the American people. According to this book, the American people hold onto freedom as “the right to be left alone” (Bellah, et al. 9). People in this society live a privatized life where each person is only concerned with personal issues. The authors continue to say that when the country is faced with difficult situations, the people respond by hiding in their private lives. The issues affecting other people do not concern them, as this is a society whereby each person lives on his own. Freedom, according to this book, no longer fits this definition, as the need for a collective voice is imminent. The solution is not to take away freedom but to embed it into the structures of the society. This will result in the formation of a society that discusses issues in order to come up solutions that are in line with the societal needs.
Another point of discussion in this book is democracy, which the author describes as lacking in the American society. In relation to freedom, when people can participate in a free and fair election, the society is termed as democratic. However, this book deviates from the usual definition of democracy as it presents a new dimension to freedom and democracy. The authors argue that democracy can only be genuinely exercised if the people are actively involved in political and economical decision-making (Bellah, et al. 56). In this view, the authors argue that all key decisions are left to politicians thus supporting the growth of capitalism. Through the embezzlement of public funds, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. The lack of democracy is directly related to individualism, as people have lost the collective voice that can be used to raise problems in the community. The people lack a sense of collective responsibility that can help in difficult situations. In this perspective, the authors note that lack of democracy leads to the deterioration of public institutions that are the governing forces in the country. For example, the justice and educational institutions reflect the bad state of the society.
This book also talks about religion and how it has been used for different purposes in the society. The authors note the ironic nature of the society considering that most religious beliefs teach on the importance of collective responsibility (Bellah, et al. 180). The people who claim to be deeply religious do not follow these beliefs as they lead a highly individualistic life. Additionally, individualism has led to the moral and cultural decay of the society whereby people no longer value important traditions. Consumerism continues to affect the society whereby people are more concerned about accumulating wealth and purchasing products rather than the wellbeing of the society.
Nonetheless, the authors present solutions to the challenges that face the American society. The solution to the individualism that exists in the society is the transformation of the societal ideals into an interdependent way of life. This may not be easy but enhanced public awareness can easily transform the people. Additionally, democracy should not only be a concept practiced during elections, it should be embedded into the social structures including families, schools and work places (Bella et al. 256). In this view, in order to achieve the above changes, active public discourse is vital. Through a combined approach to issues, it will become easier for the people to participate in political and economic debates that aid in decision-making.
Bellah, Robert, Richard Madsen, William Sullivan, Steven Tipton and Ann Swindler. The good society. New York, NY: Knopf, 1981. Print.