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Manliness [Hardcover]

Harvey C. Mansfield


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Book Description

March 11 2006
This book invites—no, demands—a response from its readers. It is impossible not to be drawn in to the provocative (often contentious) discussion that Harvey Mansfield sets before us. This is the first comprehensive study of manliness, a quality both bad and good, mostly male, often intolerant, irrational, and ambitious. Our “gender-neutral society” does not like it but cannot get rid of it.
Drawing from science, literature, and philosophy, Mansfield examines the layers of manliness, from vulgar aggression, to assertive manliness, to manliness as virtue, and to philosophical manliness. He shows that manliness seeks and welcomes drama, prefers times of war, conflict, and risk, and brings change or restores order at crucial moments. Manly men in their assertiveness raise issues, bring them to the fore, and make them public and political—as for example, the manliness of the women’s movement.
After a wide-ranging tour from stereotypes to Hemingway and Achilles, to Nietzsche, to feminism, and to Plato, the author returns to today’s problem of “unemployed manliness.” Formulating a reasoned defense of a quality hardly obedient to reason, he urges men, and especially women, to understand and accept manliness, and to give it honest and honorable employment.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (March 11 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300106645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300106640
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 17.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #530,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Harvard government professor Mansfield delves into philosophy, literature and science to define manliness and to argue that it should have a place in an increasingly non-gender-specific society. Throughout, Mansfield clearly states his intentions, and though he may have convinced himself he accomplished his goals, readers will be skeptical; when, for example, he sets out to "elevate manliness from aggression to assertion and thereby discover its connection to politics," he jumps from Hemingway to Achilles before posing a question that has little more than a thin patina of importance: "In our time there are many who say that heroes lack humanity and few who will admit that humanity needs heroes. But at all times heroes have to assert themselves. The question is, what is in it for us?" Similar murky questions and non-sequitur lines of logic continue throughout: "Man has fearsome powers of wisdom and fire over beasts. All beasts fear fire, which perhaps represents the Promethean gift of technology." This clunky chain of supposition is followed by a brief foray into The Jungle Book. But Mansfield's theories on gender equality are likely to create the most conversation: "women are the weaker sex," "women's bodies are made to attract and to please men" and "now that women are equal, they should be able to accept being told that they aren't, quite" all appear on the same page. Mansfield set out to write a provocative book, but ended up penning a juvenile screed.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Annoying at times (often!), but never uninteresting, this book has much of importance to say."—Arlene Saxonhouse, University of Michigan
 

(Arlene Saxonhouse)

"A work of thought as well as a provocation, Manliness deserves to be widely read, argued over, and pondered."— David Bromwich, Yale University

(David Bromwich)

"Mansfield argues that manliness—in its combination of stubbornness and rationality—provides a ground for political life. His work is a thoughtful attempt to move us to think more clearly about who we are, and about the future of our liberal society."—Mary Nichols, Baylor University

(Mary Nichols)

It’s a subtle exploration about the virtues and vices of the thymotic urge."—Frank Rich, New York Times 
 

(Frank Rich 4. New York Times)

“Mansfield’s defense of what, politically, has become indefensible by anyone wanting to keep his reputation intact is most welcome.”—Theodore Dalrymple, American Enterprise

(Theodore Dalrymple American Enterprise)

“Mansfield argues that efforts in Western society to equalize the status of men and women are doomed to failure.”—Kevin Horrigan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


(Kevin Horrigan St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"[This] new book entitled simply Manliness amounts to a spirited defense of the male psychology."—Joseph R. Phelan, Washington Times


(Joseph R. Phelan Washington Times)

“Amusing, refreshing, and outrageous observations. . . . Many readers will be grateful to him for his candor and bravado.”—Christina Hoff Somers, Weekly Standard
(Christina Hoff Somers Weekly Standard)

Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
257 of 327 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, important subject to explore March 6 2006
By Night Owl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For the sake of disclosure, I have not read the entire book yet, but went through it quickly, and know its tone and content. Also, I am a free-thinking, liberal, confident female, who (to paraphrase Mansfield) has studied men all my life (40+ years). I love men, and yet find many of them just tragically confused, unaware of what being a man is all about.

This book is worth reading by anyone who is interested in gender relations -- and aren't we all. It does not appear to me that it is an anti-woman book, as the first Amazon reviewer (below) suggests.

I absolutely agree with Mansfield's opinion that being a man is about having "confidence in risky situations". That negative reviewer was totally on shaky grounds (logic-wise) arguing that it is an insult to women (because to her, it meant that Masfiled thinks that courage is just a masculine trait).

Women can be as courageous, or more, as men. But that's not the issue. The issue is that if you are a woman, and you hapen to be shy, timid, or downright cowardly, you can still feel like a woman -- i.e. feminine, true to your gender.

Courage is not expected of women in our culture to the extent it is expected of men (though I hope it will gradually change because it is a sign of inequality). Many people -- men or women - have a hard time differentiating, on the gut level, between courage that may entail physical danger, and emotional/intellectual courage. Someone who is weaker physically may instinctively shy away from sticking his/her head out.

However, when a man is not courageous or confident, he simply cannot feel like a man, and loses self-respect -- which has a disastrous effect on his life, in his raltionships with women in particular, but also in relation to men; and that negatively affects his overall functioning in society.

I also agree with Mansfiled's assertion that a man cannot be a gentleman until he is a man first (in a true, fully encompassing sense of that word). That is a great insight -- helps me understand why men who are not gentlemen often lack personal courage.

Whether I am going to like or agree with everything in this book, or not, is not that important -- I look forward to reading every page anyway.

What I appreciate is that it has been written by a mature, thinking, outspoken, intellectually accomplished man. Therefore it gives me as a woman invaluable, thought-provoking insights. Worth every penny.
88 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Serious If Provocative Work March 6 2006
By John Strickland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A previous reader declares the work "bigotry" but is simply wrong. As one of the few "liberal" students of Professor Mansfield, I can assure readers that such a charge is utterly unfounded. After taking the summer of 1964 to work with SNCC and COFO in Mississippi registering blacks to vote, I returned to Harvard in a state that can only be described as "shellshock." Mansfield both accepted my need to go down to Mississippi and offered his support on my return as a student trying to write a thesis after such an experience. I learned to spot bigots with my eyes closed in Mississippi and Mansfield does not match the description. Faced with clubs, bullets, and dynamite, I needed some detachment--R&R--to recover my humanity. I found it studying with Professor Mansfield. I may not fit the stereotype among his students: I am still a "liberal"--indeed a Quaker (in part because of their attitudes toward blacks and women)--but I never found any lack of respect from Mansfield for my position. I may not agree with him on many points but I do not indulge in ignorant name-calling. Anyone who has read Mansfield's previous books would know they are all worthy of profound consideration. I look forward to reading this one, no matter how much I may differ in my opinions. He is, in language borrowed from Northrup Frye, an "eiron" in the clothing of an "alazon." A little humor and even more wit from prospective readers will go a long way in approaching his books. I will add more after I read the book but I could not bear to see so unjust a characterization in a public place. It would have been "unmanly" for me not to respond with the information I have provided.
104 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably fine philosophical work March 21 2006
By Clear Thinker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an extraordinary book,but one written on such an intellectual plane that it seems to me highlighting/underlining is mandatory. In fact, Mansfield addresses Manliness against a backdrop of history and philosophy, from Plato to Hobbes to Machiavelli.

He also addresses Manliness in Art and literature, from Stephan Crane ("The Red Badge of Courage") to the movie "High Noon".

This book seems to be gaining traction and you'll hear increasing references to it, particularly from biased dullards who clearly have not read it. For the record, this book addresses the Bush Administration, War on Terror, or The President not at all. The closest it comes is the single sentence that "Manly politicians strive to do what they think is right; unmanly politicians strive to do what you think is right." If some wish to relate that to the current and previous administrations, they may, but Mansfield does not.

A significant timeless work on the subject, and one that, as Bacon wrote, "needs to be chewed and digested". With a red pen in your hand. Buy it..right now.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Confidence men, not brave men - Ethics are for women - Real men are "beyond good and evil" March 17 2009
By a Midwest reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I strongly disagree with the arguments and conclusions in Mansfield's book. I give it four stars because it is a well-argued and well-organized book on an important topic. Mansfield does a great service because he lays bare for us the moral and ethical and philosophical roots of his version of "manliness," and in the process of reading and re-reading his book and finding where I disagree with him, it helped me think more clearly about what I do consider real manliness and courage. And that's what a good book should do.

Most of us know from real-life experience that the biggest bullies are often some of the most insecure males (and females) around. Read the book "Warriors, Workers, Whiners and Weasels"Warriors, Workers, Whiners, & Weasels: Understanding and Using The Four Personality Types To Your Advantage and you'll quickly recognize the ones most likely to seize on Mansfield's arguments about "manly" men will often be the insecure weasels rather than the warriors. When you unpack it, the book Manliness really amounts to an elaborate set of excuses for Napoleon, Hitler, the neighborhood bully, and any other insecure males (or females) out there. These are the first ones to be overly concerned about what everyone thinks of them and want to convince everyone their pushy obnoxious and deceitful actions are a sign of strength, rather than an outgrowth of their huge inner doubts and insecurity.

Mansfield opens his book with tales about brave and tragic heroes in Greek legend. After he mentions the Greek word "arete" (courage, excellence) a few times, he replaces the word bravery with the more value-free words confidence (or assertiveness) through the rest of the book. This is a conscious choice of words and if you read between the lines you can see the bait-and-switch - Mansfield knows full well that bravery and confidence do not mean the same thing at all. For a sharp contrast to Mansfield's existentialism and emotivism, read A Short History of Ethics by Alasdair MacIntyre (then chapter 15 from his later book After Virtue). A Short History of Ethics: A History of Moral Philosophy from the Homeric Age to the Twentieth Century

Consider the distinction between brave or foolhardy, a difference that relies completely on deeper values and priorities and intentions. These deeper intentions tell us whether an action is worth the risk (brave) or not (foolhardy). This distinction is completely lost with the word confident. Mansfield, nihilism, Machiavelli and Nietzsche reject all the values which give words like brave or foolhardy or tragic any meaning. Machiavelli counseled Italian princes to give mere lip service to values like excellence, faith, justice, or concern for others, while Nietzsche rejected them outright. What both of Mansfield's most "manly" heroes have in common is the pure will to power and power for it's own sake. Translation: ethics are for women (and weak males), while real men are beyond good and evil. Real men make their own rules, and do this for no purpose other than to impose their will on others. The Prince, Beyond Good and Evil

Confidence is a very poor substitute for bravery. Confidence amounts to being sure of one self (or settling for the next closest thing: looking confident). Someone can act confident without taking any real risk. Someone can act confident without ever weighing what purposes are really worth striving for. By contrast when a man is brave, two things must be true. First he is not sure of the outcome, because if he is confident of the outcome and has no doubts then he is not taking a real risk and is not brave. And second he takes the risk anyway, because it is worth the risk to achieve some greater good. If a man did not realize he was taking a serious risk, or was not doing it for a valuable purpose, then he was not brave. Period.

A world of confident nihilists that reject deeper values and purpose is a world stripped of bravery or tragedy. In Mansfield's "manly" world, a successful drug dealer who's confident no one will get past his underlings and ensnares people with addiction to feed his greed is potentially just as manly as the hostage negotiator, or the firefighters and paramedics who lost their lives selflessly rushing into the Twin Towers. But the drug kingpin is not brave. I reject the overriding importance Mansfield puts on confidence, nihilism, and imposing our will on others, and reject his arguments that these are the foundations of real manliness.

Mansfield offers us the thin promise that this value-free and sometimes childish egotism is a necessary evil because without it, our society will not produce the heroes who will rise up to save us from our evil opponents. Reality check: true real-life heroes are rarely egotists who go in for the kind of existentialist arguments Mansfield is making. And he admires the 9/11 terrorists as manly and admires them for making heroes more necessary too, so his argument here is circular and the "saviour" argument is obviously not really at all central to his views. Brave men do not need Mansfield's book - their strength comes from a much deeper source. The firemen and paramedics who rushed into the Twin Towers might or might not have all been confident, but we can say with certainty they were brave. Men and women like this will rush into buildings with or without all Mansfield's elaborate philosophical excuses for controlling personalities, show-offs, and obnoxious loudmouths.

When Alasdair MacIntyre After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Third Edition (Ch. 18) uses Nietzsche's own words from The Will to Power to show us the emptiness and falseness and loneliness of his "Great Man" (ubermensch) he also shows us the emptiness of Mansfield's version of "manliness": "A great man - a man whom nature has constructed and invented in the grand style - what is he? ... If he cannot lead he goes alone; then it can happen that he may snarl at some things he meets on the way ... he wants no sympathetic heart, but servants, tools; in his intercourse with men he is always intent on making something out of them. ... When not speaking to himself, he wears a mask. He rather lies than tells the truth: it requires more spirit and will. There is a solitude within him ..." And we know from his own words that Nietzsche is Mansfield's greatest "manly" hero. Mansfield clearly admires controlling, manipulative, deceitful men. And I clearly do not.

Yes, our society does need more manliness, but certainly not the manliness Mansfield describes. Mansfield's strutting nihilist version of manliness in fact contributes to the very decay of confidence he criticizes. Confidence is a very poor substitute for real courage, and our society does not need even more desire to be confident and assertive. Television and the newsmedia and shopping malls and ads in our bathroom stalls already bombard us to no end with messages that we should think everywhere and always about looking more confident and assertive. But very few messages about being truly brave. It turns out harping on confidence and breeding more insecurity happen to be profitable for advertisers, while bravery is not. Mansfield argues our society suffers from too little nihilism and confidence, when in fact our society suffers from too much nihilism, too much focus on confidence, and too many weasels and crackpot Machiavelli wanna-bees. Instead we need more brave men and women to recognize what is truly most important and meaningful in life and are strong enough to back up their beliefs with their day-to-day actions.
24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully irritating Aug. 30 2006
By avid rita - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a 50-something feminist, I've been fascinated by the evolution of sex roles and stereotypes even in my lifetime. I admire Mansfield's courage in tackling this issue head on -- and at Harvard, no less!-- because at least in my little town, stereotypical manliness is something to be subverted.

If this is an overreaction, perhaps it is a reasonable one, since women have been oppressed by reason of their sex; still are, although far less and more subtly. But it's really a shame that so many see a solution in diminishing the differences in the sexes. Equality does not require that we all be the same-- an impossible proposition in any event: rather than we have equality of opportunity.

It seems to me that sexuality is a complicated business, not merely a crisp duality. I visualize masculinity and femininity as a collection of traits that we all possess in varying degrees(visualize not a bell chart, but a barbell chart). Indeed, individuals in either dead center or on either extreme end seem to have the most difficulty functioning in society.

The differences in men may irritate and frustrate at times, but they also delight me simply because of their difference. Indeed, Mansfield can irritate me when he persists in defining many sexual characteristics as competitively superior or inferior-- but then, he is a man (and perhaps a bit old school at that)!

Still, let's resist the pressure for to gender neutrality, focus on opportunity and overcoming oppression, and celebrate our differences.

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