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Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  1,186 ratings  ·  127 reviews
In this new collection of essays, Wendell Berry continues his work as one of America’s most necessary social commentators. With wisdom and clear, ringing prose, he tackles head-on some of the most difficult problems which face us as we near the end of the twentieth century.

Berry begins the title essay with the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas hearings as an example of a “process
Paperback, 179 pages
Published September 13th 1994 by Pantheon (first published 1993)
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However you must judge me— if you must judge me— for being 100% behind this book, for the unapologetic endorsement of it, by all means. Please do. I ate it up like I was starved for a fat steak dinner.

It’s the subject I’ve been obsessed with: community. (Preoccupied, absorbed, obsessed— none are quite the right word. Maybe wrestling. But I digress.) Community, as in the whole-scale failure of world to protect them, the tattered, battered remnants of the ones that remain. Mr. Berry writes this fr
Wendell Berry presents an urgent message in clear and beautiful writing. A perfect balance of intent and rhetoric. This work is the voice of conscience our time must heed.
I love being taught things. But more than that I love being actively taught things. I love butting heads with the teacher, I love having my ass handed to me in the sense that what I think I know gets challenged, shut down and then retaught to me. Needless to say, that's what this book did.

I haven't read a collection of essays this poignant, necessary and forthright since O'Connor's Mystery and Manners, a book that I revisit constantly and am constantly finding new things to appreciate and marve
This is a fine collection of essays that has sparked in me a renewed interest in the world, and the ways in which human beings have chosen to live in relation to it. Berry's reflections refuse easy categorization and are deeply refreshing in the context of blind and deaf media polarization. I was more informed about current issues of political relevance by this ten year-old book than by many hours of news consumption. More importantly, issues are placed squarely in a big-picture context, one whi ...more
Donald Linnemeyer
Wendell Berry is prophetic. Sometimes he stretches me farther than I'm willing to go, but he never fails to be interesting. Here are a couple quotes:

(from his list of modern market/education truths): "The smartest and most educated people are the scientists, for they have already found solutions to all our problems and will soon find solutions to all the problems resulting from their solutions to all the problems we used to have."

"Our present sexual conduct... having 'liberated' itself from the
I started out with a copy borrowed from the library, and halfway through I ordered one from a local bookseller through Amazon. I bet there's something for everyone in this book. There were times I was moved to tears. I nearly always felt like what he was saying was so obvious and logical, it was perplexing how different it was from what prevails in our collective societal psyche. It may be a little bit challenging, or it may be very liberating. Or it may be just the rambling ideas of "a white Pr ...more
This is one of those Wendell Berry classics which I had not yet read. There are actually quite a few of those, which is funny given how important Berry has been to me. I guess I continue to return to those favourites savouring them and allow them to influence me anew.

Some of the specifics of this book are dated, but the general themes are not. In fact, many of the issues that alarm him are even more severe now than in the early 90's.

I probably underlined at least one sentence on every page.

John Gardner
Wendell Berry is a name that has come up over and over in my reading and in discussions with other readers. Most intriguing to me was the fact that his writing — covering topics from politics to religion to current affairs, and everything in between — has been recommended to me by friends and acquaintances from all political and theological stripes, spanning the entire spectrum from left to right. One of the book's endorsements pointed out Berry's "unique position in American social debate: not ...more
This wasn't one of my favorite Wendell Berry books, but I was fascinated by his in depth discussion of community. The ways community can be fostered and sustained or destroyed form the crux of this book.

"The freedom of the community is the more fundamental and the more complex. A community confers on its members the freedoms implicit in familiarity,mutual respect, mutual affection, and mutual help; it gives freedom its proper aims; and it prescribes or shows the responsibilities without which no
Dean Mathiowetz
Berry's essays vividly diagnose the stark challenges facing our modern, industrial, urban society. They also reveal the weaknesses of his prescription. Written during the height of multiculturalism in academia, these essays reveal Berry's bitter resentment that urban minorities have upstaged his own heroes, the simple, down-to-earth small towners that populated his novels. They also reveal a missed opportunity for Berry to have deepened his engagement with his imagined solution, and pushed it ou ...more
May 26, 2008 Russell rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Freedom lovers, Christians, Teachers, Friends, and Americans
Recommended to Russell by: Dany Millikin
Berry tells it like it is in this accurate portrayal of America. We are a country at war with ourselves. Berry explores the nature of community and how our contributions and interactions with it have become exploitative. The main theme he recapitulates throughout the book is the way that the economy has become "global", so no one is looking out for their neighbor. The farmers in America are not protected from having to compete with the labor of people working in disparate conditions in the third ...more

An incisive critique of the consumerist and egotistical attitude shared, in some measure, but the greater part of the American society. However, I can't help but think Berry, in these essays, falls prey to a nostalgic reverie in which our current world would more resemble those communities which existed 200 years ago in the rural agrarian frontiers. While those communities have much to commend them (and I appreciate Berry's positive contribution to the development of the community ideal), they a

Mar 22, 2009 Melanie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Melanie by: University City Public Library (25-cents)
Acerbic and insightful.
I particularly like the essay "The Problem of Tobacco."
This needs a second read, because I often picked it up and put it down in the middle of an essay, which disjointed my experience of the book as a whole.
I like Berry's poetry better than his nonfiction, but each of these essays gave me something to think about that I had never before considered: such as about about how we live in relation to the land and to each other, and the connections between the two, and about citi
Because I agree with many of the opinions Berry expresses in these essays, I really wanted to give this 4 stars. However, in many places he comes off as cranky and merely critical, with no concrete suggestions for how obtain the better forms of community that he commends. And by criticizing certain movements, he actively shuts out some people from those communities. Berry succeeds in making me think, and making me uncomfortable with certain modern assumptions of freedom, but he also makes me unc ...more
Dan Gobble
My all time favorite author! This book is a call to resist the consumer mentality of American culture which is so dominant today. Wendell advocates for a strong local economy, first and foremost, versus the destructive global economy which is highly advocated by the major corporations (who now operate like colonial powers, pillaging countries of their cheap labor and natural resources but showing little loyalty to the indigenous population and land). Wendell calls us back to "good work" which be ...more
Jonathan Huggins
Wow. So good. Should be required reading for every college student... And for everyone else.
Wendell Berry's collection of essays from the early 90's remains relevant today. Most of these essays offer focused looks at topics revolving tightly around the farming communities of rural America--the key word here being "communities." For this is Berry's ultimate concern in the collection as a whole, and possibly in his work as a whole as well. He is concerned with the disintegration of communities. Berry highlights this disintegration in modern America with plenty of contrast with the strong ...more
Derrick Jeter
Wendell Berry is the preeminent thinker and writer of community and ecology in American Christianity. Like Marilynne Robinson, Berry has been embraced by not only by Christians but by conservatives as well. Which is a curiosity, since much of Robinson’s and Berry’s opinions ought to set conservatives’ teeth on edge. Some of those opinions are set out in vivid and stark language in Berry’s book from the early 1990s, "Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community."

A collection of eight essays looking at A
Berry is spot-on, and a delight to read. If nothing else, read his preface, "The Joy of Sales Resistance". Perhaps one of my favorite lines: "If you have bought this book, I thank you. If you have borrowed this book, I commend your frugality. If you have stolen this book, may it add to your confusion."
This is undoubtedly one of the best collections I've read. Likewise, the seventh chapter, "Christianity and the Survival of Creation," will quickly become one of my favorite essays to read and revisit.
This book both depressed and inspired me.

It depressed me because it cast a vision of public, private, and community life that, while compelling and beautiful, is also so distant from everything I've experienced. It touched a deep longing, but since it can't fulfill it, it simply hurt.

At the same time, I find myself inspired, not only because it touched on a vision of life that I ache for, but because I can see how a number of decisions my wife and I have made in recent months are moving towards
I only read the title essay, but it was amazing!

I plan to blog about it more when I get time.
On what do you wish to ponder? Chances are you will find something worthy in this collection of essays. While I am already sold on most of Berry’s ideas regarding capitalism, sustainable economy, and community, he is always digging a little deeper and providing me new insights and ideas to consider, as well as challenges to choose.

Berry’s analytical skill is exceptional; he deconstructs, but not to the point of meaninglessness. Rather, he breaks things down to show us the faulty logic of some sy
Took me a while to get through this book...but it's good b/c it's broken into separate essays. I've read Berry before but not as concentrated. Definitely some good observations

Chapter 7, Part III
"Obviously, "the sense of the holiness of life" is not compatible with tan exploitive economy. You cannot know that life is holy if you are content o live from economic practices that daily destroy life and diminish its possibility. And many if not most Christian organization now appear to be perfectly a
Okay, since I have a horrible memory, and this is a library book, I'm going to use this space to write down all my favorite quotes from the book:

-If you want to see where you are, you will have to get out of your spaceship, out of your car, off your horse, and walk over the ground. On foot you will find that the earth is still satisfyingly large and full of beguiling nooks and crannies. (20)

-There should be no relenting in our efforts to influence politics and politicians. But in the name of hon
May 15, 2012 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: essays
As always, Wendell Berry leaves me thinking. And, as usual, I find myself agreeing with much of what he has to say. Beyond the titular themes, this collection of essays from the early '90s includes an excellent critique of Christianity's complicity in allowing the industrial economy to rape the land, and a series of thoughts on the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

I am struggling a bit, however, with the final essay, from which the book takes its title. In it, Berry defines "community" in part as "an under
"The indispensable form that can intervene between public and private interests is that of community. The concerns of public and private, republic and citizen, necessary as they are, are not adequate for the shaping of human life. Community alone, as principle and as fact, can raise the standards of local health (ecological, economic, social, and spiritual) without which the other two interest will destroy one another." (pg. 119)

In this group of essays, Berry repeatedly asserts and explains the
I really enjoyed his writing and thought processes, but he kept talking about the environment and I wanted to be like dude, I don't care. Like the fact that he was offended we call it the environment instead of "creation." Seriously, pick your battles. At one point he is talking about how the Bible is an outdoor book, at least that is how he experiences it. I just wanted to be like EXACTLY, it's your experience and your truth and please don't expect us all to be so idealistic. That being said, h ...more
Wendell Berry is a name that I kept running into because I like food and animals which naturally leads to an interest in land stewardship and ethical farming practices. But it turns out under the brilliant scrutiny of Mr. Berry that it leads to a lot more than that. I have now read several of Berry's books of essays and some of his fiction and this work still really stands out to me as particularly exceptional. A series of essays, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community is rooted in Berry's own expe ...more
Rita Quillen
Very interesting book, as always would be expected from one of our most thoughtful social commentators (and you thought he was just a poet! :-)). Saw a room full of young women take umbrage with what they saw as reactionary viewpoint in this book toward women and "public work" at the Southern Festival of Books when this came out. Mr. Berry was nonplussed. :-) and stood his ground on his point that pulling women out of the home and off the land has consequences both bad and good....
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
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“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” 367 likes
“Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community. If they had only themselves to consider, lovers would not need to marry, but they must think of others and of other things. They say their vows to the community as much as to one another, and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them well, on their behalf and its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is. These lovers, pledging themselves to one another "until death," are giving themselves away, and they are joined by this as no law or contract could join them. Lovers, then, "die" into their union with one another as a soul "dies" into its union with God. And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing...” 87 likes
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