Daniel Patrick Moynihan: The Last Great American Sociologist

How else to say it:  Sociology as a discipline has long been dead.

The longest and most successful American sociologist, the one with the greatest impact was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  Serving in four Presidential Cabinets (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford) his mind spoke of a patrician turn that is no longer possible.  Both depth and range signal an acute grasp on matters both social and political.

Steven Weisman’s editing of Daniel Patrick Moynihan:  A Portrait In Letters Of An American Visionary is worthy of any decent bookshelf if only to reveal the significance that letter writing once was to discerning literary and political minds.

Moynihan once remarked that politics is an argument about the future.  The tenants of that future and its philosophical, theological foundation were available to minds like Moynihan.  He wrote “the central conservative truth is simple to understand:  it is culture, not politics that determines the success of society.  The central liberal truth is that politics can change culture and save it from itself.”  Both reveal a tragic chasm that bestrides our Republic:  contemporary liberalism has embraced a view of personal freedom that recognizes no intrinsic limits.

Seven years after his death, it is the party of Moynihan that sadly reveals a profound truth about contemporary conservatism:  the contention that liberal politics produces a culture of dependency, a government riddled with rent seeking – the manipulation of government power for private advantage – which violently collides with the very foundation of this Republic.

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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