Twilight of Authority

Robert A. Nisbet

This classic occupies an interesting place in libertarian history. The author is a sociologist, one beloved by conservatives. But read closely: his view of what constitutes authority (legitimate authority) flows entirely out of the private sphere of life, not from the state. Indeed, he regards the state as the great enemy of social authority and civic association created by voluntary interaction..

Nisbet argues that the "centralization, and, increasingly, individualization of power is matched in the social and cultural spheres by a combined hedonism and egalitarianism, each in its own way a reflection of the destructive impact of power on the hierarchy that is native to the social bond,” he writes. Nisbet offers no prophecy of inevitable decline; rather, he means to call attention to “the problem of finding the means of generating a social order within which the individual can live and derive a spirit of initiative.”


Meet the Author
Robert A. Nisbet

Robert Nisbet (1913–1996), the eminent sociologist, taught at Columbia University and made his mark on intellectual life through observing the intermediating structures in society that serve as a bulwark between the individual and the state. He was known as a conservative, and his work is on every list of conservative contributions to the social sciences, but far from being a typical conservative, he blasted conservatism as a species of militarist and invasive interventionism, one that abused people's public and private pieties in the service of a ghastly civic ethic of statism. He is the author of The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America and Twilight of Authority.

Mises Daily Robert A. Nisbet
What we have witnessed is the almost incessant growth in power over the lives of human beings — power that is basically the result of the gradual disappearance of all the intermediate institutions.
Robert A. Nisbet
It is only too clear that behind the tactical and strategical problems of our relations with the rest of the world-not to emphasize the occasional humiliations-lie some major difficulties of perspective. They are most plainly political difficulties
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