The Countermarch

The Quest for Community

“A sense of the past is far more basic to the maintenance of freedom than hope for the future.  The former is concrete and real; the latter is necessarily amorphous and more easily guided by those who can manipulate human actions and beliefs.

—Robert Nisbet,
The Quest for Community

The trouble with labels—whether adopted voluntarily or applied by others—is that they are inherently limiting.  Robert Nisbet is often described as a sociologist or a libertarian, and sometimes as a libertarian sociologist, depending on what the person labeling Nisbet desires to emphasize.  It is true that Nisbet was a sociologist by training and profession, but the term sociologist today usually calls to mind a professor in an ivory tower who regards free will as a delusion, at least in a practical sense, because the constraints of political, social, and economic institutions keep men and women (and men who want to become women) trapped in the particular circumstances into which they were born.  Historically, Auguste Comte is regarded as the father of sociology; in practical terms, sociology as practiced in the academy today finds its roots in the opening sentence of Rousseau’s Social Contract: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

The...

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