The Compassionate Temperament

Care and Cruelty in Modern Society

By (author) Natan Sznaider

Publication date:

20 December 2000

Length of book:

144 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9780847695553

The argument of this book is that it is in the nature of modernity to foster compassion. Most critics tend to think of modernity as corrosive of moral sentiments. They see clearly the way in which modernity breaks down older social bonds, but they are much less attentive to the ways in which it also builds new ones. This book offers an historically informed corrective to this common view. Sznaider demonstrates that compassion, understood as the organized campaign to lessen the suffering of strangers, is a distinctly modern form of morality. It played an important role in the rise of modern society, and it continues to play an important role today. And when waves of compassion break out into demands for political action, these demands need to be understood rather than criticized as excuses or irrelevancies. Incorporating and critiquing the work of Arendt, Foucault, and other social theorists, this book is both erudite and historically rich—sure to be both controversial and influential among those who debate modernity, morality, and social justice.
This book lucidly attacks the persisting idea that modernity weakens moral solidarity. It shows clearly that compassion does not descend from 'tradition,' but arises from both capitalism and democracy. In demonstrating that compassion is a moral sentiment more than an ideology of power and control, Sznaider offers important revisions of classic and recent social theory.