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Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,755 ratings  ·  184 reviews
"Read [him] with pencil in hand, make notes, and hope that somehow our country and the world will soon come to see the truth that is told here." —The New York Times Book Review

In this collection of essays, first published in 1993, Wendell Berry continues his work as one of America's most necessary social commentators. With wisdom and clear, ringing prose, he tackles head-
Paperback, 208 pages
Published December 4th 2018 by Counterpoint (first published 1993)
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4.25  · 
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 ·  1,755 ratings  ·  184 reviews

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Nov 16, 2012 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
Jul 06, 2015 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
Aug 12, 2015 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
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wendell Berry isn't much of a theologian - "Christianity and the Survival of Creation" sorely disappointed. Some of the others felt dated (re: Tobacco, Peaceableness re: Persian Gulf War, and The Big Bad Idea). But, boy, is he ever a wise, countercultural social thinker.

The essay sharing the book's title is worth all the rest of it - read it carefully and repeatedly. The compelling case that it makes is too complicated to recount here - just know that it clarifies much about our current insanit
Apr 05, 2013 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.
Father Nick
Dec 26, 2007 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
May 26, 2008 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
Donald Linnemeyer
Oct 25, 2009 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
Aug 03, 2010 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
Jun 03, 2009 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
Greta Valentine
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've finished so far this year. Wendell Berry discusses the intricacies of community and how it differs from the public that has become the place for public discourse in a fragmented modern American culture. He describes how an unbridled economy has devalued local communities where the household is the unit of membership, and respect for persons / personal relationships, nature and ecology are being usurped by overly abstract, general thought and policy. Biting at times, bu ...more
John Gardner
Feb 23, 2010 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
Zachary Moll
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“I don’t think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is... It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better.”

A solid book that cuts through our political divide and continues to hold relevance today. Berry writes clearly and honestly.
Dan Glover
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The below is from some reflections for a Gospel & Culture class at Regent college. It pertains mainly to the last and longest essay in the book (and which gives its title to this volume). Wendell Berry always strikes me as someone who has gone around and collected all the sanity and common sense and groundedness that our insane, senseless and groundless culture has discarded and articulates it back to us. He is wise and he is trustworthy. I wish he was more heeded. My hasty reflections are b ...more
Jun 14, 2013 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.

Alex Stroshine
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociocultural
More like 3.5/5. The title essay, which comprises nearly half of the book, is by far the best (although I also enjoyed the essay that defends tobacco farming).

Wendell Berry provides readers with eight essays on "sex, economy, freedom, and community." As the Kirkus Review on the back cover notes, Berry is a maverick, in some ways more sympathetic to conservatives, in others on the side of the left. Unlike a lot of pundits who pine for the old ways, Berry has a firm appreciation and grasp of how c
Dean Mathiowetz
Oct 30, 2013 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
Aug 20, 2015 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
Feb 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melanie by: University City Public Library (25-cents)
Shelves: _non-fiction_
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
Aug 12, 2009 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

Feb 20, 2011 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 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 15, 2008 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."
Mar 08, 2015 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.
Sep 06, 2014 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.
Jonathan Huggins
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow. So good. Should be required reading for every college student... And for everyone else.
Apr 16, 2008 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.
Apr 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of Wendell Berry's nonfiction books, covering every hot topic in 1992, that not so surprisingly, are still hot topics of today. My first introduction to Wendell Berry was "Hannah Coulter" - one of my all-time favorite books. This book, however, is not a light read - touching on topics about the Community, the economy, war, tariff and trade agreements, politics, sexual exploitation, the beauty of marriage, the honor of work, Christianity and freedom. I've included a few quotes, giving ...more
Jeromie Rand
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s hard to believe this collection of essays was published in the early 90s. It’s insightful commentary on the issues facing our present society is piercing and prophetic. He unmasks a worldview that most of us take for granted, speaking boldly against the industrial economic forces that have shaped our public life and destroyed our communities. He pushes against the dualism of body and soul that often pervades Christian thought and allows us to be subject to these forces. He shows that the in ...more
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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."
“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...” 131 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.” 46 likes
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