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Manliness ()

[W]e cannot forget that there is a risk to freedom and all its consequences, as has been impressed on us by Auschwitz, that most terrible of the signs of this reality, which no optimism can talk or think its way around. The question of whether this has made the risk of freedom too high, its price too dear -- whether it really would have been better for it not to have existed -- is beyond our limits, beyond our horizon, and beyond the limits of our ability to understand. What holds here is what man said in God 's presence at the end of the Book of Job: "See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth...I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 40:4, 42:5f.).

In any event, we have to reckon with the fact that there is a failed freedom, unreconciled and irreconcilable, the irrevocable evil -- a negative entropy of the spirit, so to speak, which "rigidifies" from below, which misuses the time that is given to it and leaves it a wreck. On the other hand, however, the central assertion of New Testament faith is that there is the possibility that fallen freedom and misused time can be taken hold of and reconciled in a love that takes its place, so that the wounds of injustice and of evil become signs of peace in the suffering that shoulders them. The homecoming, of which the Apocalypse speaks at the end of time, is no idyll, but rather presupposes the struggle against evil, injustice, and hatred.
    -Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The End of Time (October 27, 1998)

There's so much here that's worthwhile and Professor Mansfield's discussion of manliness is so fascinating in places that it's unfortunate an editor didn't prod him into providing a better structure for his arguments. In particular, the book could have used a better introduction, one that would explain why manliness should matter to us, and conclusion, that would draw together the various threads of his theories into one coherent whole. The lack is especially frustrating because had he been forced to twine the strands together he'd have been able to bring the discussion to bear on some of the most vital issues of the day. As is, he treats manliness too much in isolation, as if it mattered in itself. He ends up defending it from the proponents of a gender-neutral society without ever explaining why the defense is important. Let us though look for the broader case between the lines of the professor's text.

According to Mr. Mansfield, "Manliness seeks and welcomes drama and prefers times of war, conflict, and risk." But more than just this willingness, even eagerness, to live with risk characterizes manliness:
It's...said that men are rational, women emotional. One can easily imagine a sexist male saying that in exasperation to, or about, a woman. A more refined version of this pairing might say that men are abstract and idealistic, women are empirical and realistic. How is that related to the basic stereotype of aggression and caring? One might suggest that men use their reason to yearn beyond, and to seek to abstract from, the present situation, while women use theirs to study and make the best of the present. Men are more decisive because they can reject what they see before them, and women are more perceptive because they hesitate to do that.
So far, so good, but later he introduces a parallel political dichotomy that directly implicates these gender differences, though he doesn't make of it what he could/should:
In liberalism there are love of liberty and desire for security. The two are linked because they are necessary for each other. Nobody wants liberty without security, which is chaos ("the war of all against all," said Thomas Hobbes), and nobody wants security without liberty, which is slavery. But, though necessary to each other, these are two distinct notions that might easily conflict. If we took them from the aspect of manliness, they necessarily conflict.

The love of liberty will keep you from ever accepting slavery, even though subjection to a conqueror might save your life. Love of liberty is not calculated; it may not be in your interest, as interest is naturally calculated; and on occasion it requires risking your life. Desire for security, in contrast, might prompt you to settle for slavery as better than death; it is therefore always calculated in terms of self-interest; and it is risk-averse.
Here we are seemingly arrived at what should be the crux of the matter and of Mr. Mansfield's book -- that manliness has been under sustained attack precisely because it is the unnatural willingness to risk insecurity in favor of freedom -- and yet he doesn't seize upon his own point. Consider that if the feminine is the impulse towards security and fits well with both the natural (or Darwinian) instinct that makes survival paramount and the collectivist political philosophies that insist freedom be sacrificed on the altar of egalitarianism, then we can see clearly not just why there is an eternal battle of the sexes but why manliness has suffered such damage in an age of Reason, of Marxism/socialism, and of female suffrage and empowerment. Mr. Mansfield is enjoyably harsh to all three of these opponents throughout the book, but doesn't tie them together in the way that he could in this liberty vs. security discussion.

Even more importantly, it is at this point that he could explain why manliness is so important, especially in America. This is, after all, an experiment in republicanism, premised on and dedicated to values that are antithetical to these three foes and dependent on an ethos of manliness:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Note in particular that the Founders envisage human affairs as a continual drama. There is no suggestion here that we should "make the best of the present" or settle for slavery rather than risk death. What is Patrick Henry's cry -- "Give me Liberty or give me death" -- if not the epitome of manliness? And so, the attrition to manliness that Mr. Mansfield is writing about strikes at the very foundations of the American Republic. It is not too much to say that if we become risk averse, if we allow ourselves to be unmanned, we will lose our country. This is why the defense of manliness is so vital, if only Mr. Mansfield had said so...


Grade: (B)


See also:

Harvey Mansfield (2 books reviewed)
Harvey Mansfield Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Harvey Mansfield     -Harvey C. Mansfield (Faculty Biographies, Department of Government, Harvard University)
    -National Association of Scholars (Board of Advisers) -Harvey Mansfield, Council (American Political Science Association)
    -ESSAY ARCHIVES: Harvey Mansfield (Contemporary Thinkers))
-BOOK SITE: Manliness by Harvey Mansfield (Yale University Press)
    -ESSAY: Is Manliness Optional? (Harvey Mansfield, September 2003, The American Enterprise)
    -ESSAY: The manliness of Theodore Roosevelt (Harvey Mansfield, March 2005, New Criterion)
    -ESSAY: Conservatism and the Common Good (Harvey C. Mansfield, Spring 2023, National Affairs)
-PROFILE: The Master of Machiavelli: Mansfield’s Machiavelli’s primary goal is to subvert and overturn Christianity. It is important to note, as Professor Mansfield does himself, that this reading of a secular, indeed anti-Christian, Machiavelli is not the only reading of the Italian philosopher. (Jesse Russell, November 30, 2023, Public Discourse)
    -PROFILE: "As Manly a Man as a Professor Can Be" (James Stoner, 12/08/22, Law & Liberty)
    -INTERVIEW: Fifteen Questions: Harvey Mansfield on Ideological Diversity, Trumpism, and his Signature Fedora: One of the University’s most prominent conservative faculty members sat down with Fifteen Minutes to discuss political polarization on campus. “The Harvard Commencement is something like the Democratic National Convention,” he says. “And that’s a hell of a way to run a university.” (MALIYA V. ELLIS, September 9, 2022, The Crimson)
    -VIDEO: In Depth: Harvey Mansfield (
    -PROFILE: The manly man's man: Harvey Mansfield, conservative political theorist and academic provocateur, argues that women--and society--need to come to terms with 'manliness' (Christopher Shea, March 12, 2006, Boston Globe)
    -ESSAY: Hey, Harvey C. Mansfield, What's the Manliest Thing You've Ever Done? (Harvard Crimson, October 06, 2005)
    -INTERVIEW: Calling All Hombres: A Harvard sage makes the case for manliness. (NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY, March 4, 2006, Opinion Journal)
    -INTERVIEW: TDR Interview: Harvey Mansfield: Men and Manliness Explained (S. Matthew McDonald | Friday, October 21, 2005, The Dartmouth Review)
-ESSAY: Mansfield's Manliness (Martin E. Marty, March 21, 2005)
    -PROFILE: 'Manliness,' an obsolete concept? Discuss. (Ken Gewertz, 4/10/03, Harvard Gazette)
    -PROFILE: Life & Mind: Harvey Mansfield, political philosopher (The Harvard Review of Philosophy and edited by S. Phineas Upham)
    -ESSAY: Manliness is Not a Virtue: Cheers to Travis, Jeers to Mansfield (Shin-En Wong, Issue 6.5, Dartmouth Free Press)
    -BOOKNOTES : Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America with Harvey Mansfield  (C-SPAN, October 13, 2000)
    -ESSAY: What Tocqueville Would Say Today (Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop, Hoover Digest)
    -ESSAY :   POINT OF VIEW :  Grade Inflation: It's Time to Face the Facts (HARVEY C. MANSFIELD, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY : Returning to the founders:   the debate on the Constitution (Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. , New Criterion)
    -ESSAY: Jaffa Versus Mansfield: Does America Have A Constitutional or A "Declaration of Independence" Soul? (Thomas G. West, November 29, 2002, The Claremont Institute)
    -ESSAY : The Thirty Years War : Cultural Conservatives Struggle with the Harvard they Love  (Janet Tassel, Harvard Magazine)
    -ESSAY : Politicized Polemics: Who Names the Controversies? (JANET McNEW, Association of Departments of English Bulletin)
    -INTERVIEW : with Harvey Mansfield : The Best Book Ever Written on America : Tocqueville's perennial timeliness. (Donald A. Yerxa, Books & Culture, July/August 2001)
    -ARTICLE : Grade Inflation is Real (Harvard Crimson)
    -ESSAY : Crimson Truths : Reality has a hearing at Harvard. (Stanley Kurtz, National Review)
    -ESSAY : Why I Hate Affirmative Action : An all-too-familiar higher-ed tale. (Mary Eberstadt, National Review)
    -ESSAY : All shall have prizes (Apr 12th 2001, The Economist)
    -ESSAY : The Virtues of C-SPAN (Harvey Mansfield, The American Enterprise)
    -ESSAY : Bring Back Respectability (Harvey Mansfield, The American Enterprise)
    -ESSAY : Education: Where We Stand - The conservative end of education. (Harvey Mansfield, National Review)
    -ESSAYS : "I Have a Dream" : Ideas for Rebuilding American Culture (Policy Review,  March-April 1996)
    -REVIEW : of Machiavelli. By Maurizio Viroli  (Harvey C. Mansfield, American Political Science Review)
    -REVIEW : of Richard Brookhiser  Founding Father: Rediscovering  George Washington (Harvey Mansfield, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW : of Athenian Democracy: Modern Mythmakers and Ancient Theorists  By Arlene W. Saxonhouse (Harvey C. Mansfield, American Political Science Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson & James Madison edited by John Morton Smith (Harvey Mansfield, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW : of The Trouble with Principle, by Stanley Fish  (Harvey C. Mansfield, National Review)
    -REVIEW : of Vindicating the Founders by Thomas G. West (Harvey C. Mansfield, Wall Street Journal)
    -BOOKNOTES : Title: Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America   Author:Harvey Mansfield Sunday, December 3rd, 2000 (C-SPAN)
    -SPEECH : Ashbrook Colloquium : Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop    Topic: "Democracy in America" (Friday, March 30, 2001, Ashland University)
    -SPEECH : Hear him Roar : When not extolling the virtues of manliness, Professor Mansfield enjoys needling his liberal academic colleaugues. A conservative voice in the wildnerness, he rose at a recent faculty meeting to ask Harvard President Neil Rudenstine to address the disruption of an earlier meeting by students participating in the  April 9 "Rally for Justice." (text of his remarks)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW : NPR's Alex Chadwick speaks with Harvey Mansfield, editor and translator of the newest edition of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. (NPR, 12/09/00)
    -INTERVIEW : Grading Wars : An interview with Harvard professor Harvey C. Mansfield. (Roman Martinez, February 13, 2001, National Review)
    -INTERVIEW : A Controversial Campaign Against Grade Inflation (Sarah Bray, April 5, 2001)
    -DEBATE : THE '96 ELECTION: FREEDOM vs. ENTITLEMENTS (Harvey Mansfield * Arianna Huffington, The American Enterprise)
    -ESSAY : Harvey Mansfield and the Classics (Frank E. Smitha)
    -ESSAY : Forget Values -- Let's Talk Virtues (George F. Will, Newsweek | May 26, 2000)
    -ARTICLE : Low, high marks for grade inflation (Patrick Healy,  10/7/2001, Boston Globe)
    -ARTICLE : Ahead of the curve : Some professors battling against grade inflation (Patrick Healy, Boston Globe)
    -ARTICLE : Students protest Harvard professor : Target views on race, grades (Patrick Healy, Boston Globe)
    -ESSAY : Grading on the Harvard Curve : Harvey Mansfield's irony goes unappreciated. (Noah D. Oppenheim, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : A Different Drummer : The Great Grade Inflation Non-Debate (Nicholas Stix)
    -ESSAY : Subject: Prof. Boyle: Harvey Mansfield: Racist Hypocrite (MSA News)
    -ESSAY : Diversity, Cultural Studies and Other Mistakes (Roger Kimball , May 1996, New Criterion)
    -ESSAY : The Weekly Standard: Sins of Omission (Garance Franke-Ruta, December 1995, Perspectives)
    -ESSAY : Manly Virtues and Vices (Craig Lambert, Harvard Magazine)
    -ESSAY : All the President's Men (David Greenberg, Lingua Franca, April 1999)
    -ESSAY : A Mirror of the National Soul (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things)
    -ESSAY : Academic Postmodernity & the SATs : Dark days in the academy. (Stanley Kurtz, February 20, 2001, National Review)
    -ESSAY : Irrational Exuberance : When did Political Science forget about politics (Jonathan Cohn, October 1999, New Republic)
    -ESSAY : Dark Bedfellows : Postmoderns and traditionalists unite against the Enlightenment (Walter Olson, January 1999, Reason)
    -ARCHIVES : "Harvey C. Mansfield" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "harvey c. mansfield" (Mag Portal)
    The Neutering of the American Male: a review of Manliness by Harvey Mansfield (James Bowman, March 7, 2006, The New York Sun)
    REVIEW: of 'Manliness,' by Harvey C. Mansfield (WALTER KIRN, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville, translated  and edited by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (CALEB CRAIN, NY Times Book Review)
    -LETTER : To the Editor (James Q. Wilson, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville, translated  and edited by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Noemie Emery, National Review)
    -REVIEW : of DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, by Alexis de Tocqueville; transl. by Harvey  C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. (Michael Novak, Wilson Quarterly)
    -REVIEW : of Democracy in America (John Gould, The American Prospect)
    -REVIEW : of Machiavelli's Virtue   by Harvey C. Mansfield (Michael Anton, Commentary)
    -REVIEW : of Machiavelli's Virtue (Richard J. Mouw, Books & Culture)
    -REVIEW : of Machiavelli's Virtue by Harvey C. Mansfield (William McCuaig, H-Italy, December 1996)
    -REVIEW : of DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, by Alexis de Tocqueville; transl. by Harvey C.
Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. (Michael Novak, Wilson Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of Leo Strauss and the Straussians by Karl Jahn (Chris Patsileli)

    -ESSAY : A Scholar's Quixotic Crusade Against Harvard and Its Secrets : Peter Berkowitz won't let go of his fight to open up the university's tenure process (ROBIN WILSON, September 2001, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY : Making the Grade: Harvard's Affirmative Action Controversy (Tanu T. Henry)
    -REVIEW: of Manliness by Harvey Mansfield (Kay S. Hymowitz, Commentary) -REVIEW: of Democracy in America By Alexis de Tocqueville, Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Caleb Crain, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Educating the Prince: Essays in Honor of Harvey Mansfield edited by Mark Blitz and William Kristol (Michael P. Zuckert, Claremont Review of Books)     -REVIEW: of Tocqueville: Between Two Worlds: The Making of a Political and Theoretical Life, by Sheldon S. Wolin (Delba Winthrop, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: Of Machiavelli’s Effectual Truth: Creating the Modern World, by Harvey C. Mansfield (David Polansky, City Journal)
    -REVIEW: Of Machiavelli’s Effectual Truth: Creating the Modern World, by Harvey C. Mansfield (RJ Snell, Religion & Liberty)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ISSUE: Real Men: They're Back (The American Enterprise, September 2003)
    -ESSAY: The Return of Patriarchy: Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It's more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best. (Phillip Longman, March/April 2006, Foreign Policy)
    -ESSAY: The manly myth: What makes a real man? Hollywood and Harvard answer it different ways (JUSTIN DAVIDSON, April 13, 2006, Newsday)