Manliness Harvey C. Mansfield

Publication date:
26 Jul 2007
Yale University Press
304 pages: 235 x 156mm
Sales territories:

Why do men need to feel important? It's their manliness. But is manliness obsolete? Is it even a virtue?

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.

Harvey C. Mansfield is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government, Harvard University.

"Thoughtful, vexing, and ultimately irresistible book . . . neither a chest-thumping celebration of masculinity nor a scientific snore on ‘biological maleness.'"—O TheOprah Magazine

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

"Quaint."—Maureen Dowd, New York Times

"This is a book no-one else could have written . . . few American professors can be so unsackably eminent that they can afford to stroll through such a minefield of political incorrectness. . . . This is a fascinating book – part co-ed, part philosophy treatise, part cri de coeur. Unthinking liberals will dismiss it; thinking radical feminists will hate it. The rest of us (including thinking liberals, but perhaps excluding humourless ones) will find its jokes deliciously dry, and its arguments subtle and strong."—Noel Malcolm, The Sunday Telegraph

"Mansfield draws on a rich variety of sources . . . a treatise on how American society reached the point that it has."—Shane Hegarty, The Irish Times

"Harvey C Mansfield’s Manliness . . . [is an] urgent and timely clarion call. So you nerds and sensitive, liberal, left-leaning wimps out there, listen carefully to what Mansfield, a political scientist of some note, has to say. . . . Save the future, assert your manliness, and go forth to rule the world."—Ziauddin Sardar, New Statesman

Selected as a 2007 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries

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

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

"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