Greg's Reviews > Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

Not for Profit by Martha C. Nussbaum
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's review
Jun 26, 2010

really liked it
Read in June, 2010

I started this little book a few weeks ago and just got around to reading the last chapter of it today. It was pretty good, I would say. Nussbaum describes it as a manifesto, and this is most certainly a correct characterization. Generally, she argues that the humanities and liberal arts education are vital to democracy because they help to cultivate informed, empathetic, and critical world citizens: the sort of people necessary to sustain democratic societies. She criticizes the growth-oriented model of education in which the natural sciences and engineering (among other disciplines) are promoted at the expense of history and literature and philosophy; the former set increases GNP whereas the latter only contributes to the full realization of its students’ humanity, which does not directly increase GNP. Nussbaum’s own values are evident in her arguments, but this is no criticism, as (1) that her book is a manifesto does not compel her to conceal her values and (2) I agree with much of what she says. I am skeptical that her arguments will have much impact in places where liberal arts education is not already the norm, and I only hope that they will help to sustain it in places where it is. After all, the growth-oriented model is steamrolling ahead.

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