With liberal democracy embattled, public discourse grown toxic, family life breaking down, and drug abuse and depression on the rise, many fear what the future holds. In Morality, respected faith leader and public intellectual Jonathan Sacks traces today's crisis to our loss of a strong, shared moral code and our elevation of self-interest over the common good.
Jonathan Sacks’s latest, and last, book, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, is an ethical will of sorts, in the form of a comprehensive, erudite survey of moral philosophy and a plea for a renewed commitment to a communal moral code ... Sacks’s command of the historical sweep of intellectual thought is breathtaking ... One can only wish that Sacks’s brilliant, urgent 'ethical will' can transcend his grandchildren and inspire all who fervently hope to emerge from this difficult time with an enhanced sense of human solidarity, responsibility, morality and love.
Short, punchy chapters take us through the things Sacks approves of (marriage, family, truthfulness, civility, altruism) and those of which he disapproves (drugs, social media, censorship, public shaming, safe spaces, narcissism, identity politics and the 'culture of victimhood'). Unlike others who share his bugbears, Sacks offers more than the kids-these-days conservatism of the tabloid moralists. His complaints, unlike theirs, emerge out of a world-view that has more to it than petulance ... The inheritor of a tradition with a long historical memory of loss, exile, death and mourning, Sacks has things to say that speak more directly to our present condition than anything in recent liberal thinking.
It has become a truism that the atomisation of society is responsible for the decline of community, the loss of trust, the rise of selfishness and an epidemic of loneliness. In Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks attempts to add more substance to this thesis ... Though much of what Sacks says may ring true, it doesn’t always stand up to scrutiny ... Sacks’s biggest and most powerful idea is also one of his oldest, having appeared in his 1997 book The Politics of Hope. He argues persuasively that we have increasingly moved from a society that rests on covenants to one that relies on contracts ... He may be optimistic when he says 'It is my firm belief that the concept of covenant has the power to transform the world,' but it could at least help to change it for the better.