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Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,361 Ratings  ·  143 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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May 14, 2014 Jamie rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 20, 2015 Jake rated it it was amazing
So I didn't agree with everything in this book, but Mr. Berry warned me in the brilliant preface that I wouldn't so he is forgiven. This man is one of the most clear writers I have come across. Lots of people talk about "common sense" nowadays, they should read this to see how common sense can also be logical and clearly outlined. I particularly enjoyed his insights on the anti-Christian nature of American politics, backed up by plenty of scripture. And it does prove prophetic, as right now a mo ...more
Jun 30, 2013 Melanie rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 03, 2015 Megan rated it really liked it
I recall thinking, when I first read C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald, that they were such excellent writers because they were heretics. I was using the term extraordinarily loosely, of course, since all I really meant by it was that neither subscribed to the evangelical doctrines I was raised in. But the fact remains that part of what makes these men such compelling writers is that they are both willing to challenge our comfortable assumptions in order to get at the truth.

This was my first fora
Jun 15, 2014 Bryant rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Donald Linnemeyer
Feb 18, 2010 Donald Linnemeyer rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 26, 2007 Nick rated it really liked it
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
Jun 22, 2009 Julie rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 08, 2013 Scott rated it really liked it
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
Feb 23, 2010 John Gardner rated it really liked it
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
Aug 07, 2010 Patti rated it liked it
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
Oct 30, 2013 Dean Mathiowetz rated it it was ok
Shelves: pleasure
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 it was amazing
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
Sep 07, 2015 Kneedleknees rated it it was ok
this book lost a star due to the horrible titular essay. seven of these eight essays are incredibly good, however the anti-feminist diatribe that is sex, economy, etc. both oversimplifies and overcomplicates the institutions of public and community, as well as individualism and communalism, by analyzing privatized sex v.s. publicized sex. the result is a blind rant, favoring communities of 'fundamental goodness' (a term he doesn't really bother to extrapolate) to the pursuit of individual libert ...more
Aug 12, 2009 Evan rated it really liked it

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 08, 2015 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
This book is twenty years old and incredibly poignant and timely. Berry's wisdom and genius shines through every single page as he deftly reveals systemic issues lying at the heart of our technologically intoxicated, chronically connected world. This should be required reading for every student in the United States.
Mar 22, 2009 Melanie rated it really liked it
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
Mar 28, 2011 Hope rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
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
Jan 07, 2015 Dan Gobble rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
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
Nov 26, 2014 Jonathan Huggins rated it it was amazing
Wow. So good. Should be required reading for every college student... And for everyone else.
Jan 25, 2015 Bobby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have yet to read a Wendell Berry essay and not come away more enlightened and with a broader understanding of some aspect of the world in which we live. And while there are certainly subjects that Berry is particularly known for, ultimately he is capable of thinking about and writing about a broad range of subjects. The eight essays in Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community are no exception. One can guess at some of the topics by the title, of course. And of those topics (all covered in the fin ...more
Feb 12, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
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
May 21, 2014 Derrick Jeter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 15, 2008 Jeffery rated it it was amazing
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."
Nov 06, 2014 Sam rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 06, 2014 Joe rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 16, 2008 Jasonlylescampbell rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethics
I only read the title essay, but it was amazing!

I plan to blog about it more when I get time.
Jan 09, 2016 Annie rated it liked it
After years and years of knowing I should and putting it off, I've finally started reading some Wendell Berry this year. I started out easy with Jayber Crow and loved it despite it moving about as slowly as a lazy country stream. I started Berry's non-fiction with Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays after seeing it in the bibliography of Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne. I like Berry's thoughtful Christianity that has enough holy space for the whole world, and I hoped this b ...more
Jordan Varey
Nov 03, 2015 Jordan Varey rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of essays first published more than 10 years ago but they feel applicable now. Wendell Berry provides some really helpful criticisms of the global economic system, environmental degradation, and sexual ethics. He makes a convincing argument for adopting a more local/community based world view and shaping our daily lives to account for the impact our decisions/buying power/private lives have on people in our neighbourhoods. He argues for a rootedness that is uncommon in ...more
Kevin Spicer
Jan 06, 2015 Kevin Spicer rated it it was amazing
If industrialization and more recently, globalization, has transformed our experience of time and space, and it has, Wendell Berry has spent a long time measuring and calculating the nature of that transformation. The main thrust of his argument is that the loosening of our bindings to the land has culminated in the loosening of our bindings to each other, and the thoughtless endorsement of any and every technology that increases production efficiency has dramatically changed the nature of cultu ...more
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  • School(s) for Conversion
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  • The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life
  • The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties Towards Mankind
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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."
More about Wendell Berry...

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“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...” 109 likes
“As I understand it, I am being paid only for my work in arranging the words; my property is that arrangement. The thoughts in this book, on the contrary, are not mine. They came freely to me, and I give them freely away. I have no "intellectual property," and I think that all claimants to such property are theives.” 40 likes
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