Real Politics: At the Center of Everyday Life

Johns Hopkins University Press (1997)
Abstract
One of America's foremost public intellectuals, Jean Bethke Elshtain has been on the frontlines in the most hotly contested and deeply divisive issues of our time. Now in Real Politics , Elshtain gives further proof of her willingness to speak her mind, courting disagreement and even censure from those who prefer their ideologies neat. At the center of Elshtain's work is a passionate concern with the relationship between political rhetoric and political action. For Elshtain, politics is a sphere of concrete responsibility. Political speech should, therefore, approach the richness of actual lives and commitments rather than present impossible utopias. In her essays, Elshtain finds in the writings of Václav Havel, Hannah Arendt, and Albert Camus a language appropriate to the complexity of everyday life and politics, and she critiques philosophers and writers who distance us from a concrete, embodied world. She argues against those repressive strains within contemporary feminism which insist that families and even sexual differentiation are inherently oppressive. Along the way, she challenges an ideology of victimization that too often loses sight of individual victims in its pursuit of abstract goals. Elshtain reaffirms the quirky and by no means simple pleasures of small-town life as a microcosm of the human condition and considers the current crisis in American education and its consequences for democracy. Beyond exploring the details of political life over the past two decades, Real Politics advocates a via media politics that avoids unacceptable extremes and serves as a model for responsible political discourse. Throughout her diverse and insightful writings, Elshtain champions a civic philosophy that tends to the dignity of everyday life as a democratic imperative of the first order. "Jean Bethke Elshtain is a person of rare intellect. The moral wisdom that pervades these essays reminds us that when all is said and done politics is about the life and death of real people who are anything but abstractions. Her erudition is remarkable, but equally stunning is her eye for the significant. What she is so good at is helping us see the moral and political significance of the everyday."--Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University " Real Politics serves as a forceful reminder that Jean Elshtain has been dealing with the real world in twenty-five years of powerful essaying. Transcending ideological categories, she writes out of hope that human beings can enjoy those capacities of reason and faith which make them human. It is a pleasure to be reintroduced to her sustained intelligence."--Alan Wolfe, Boston University.
Keywords Feminist theory  Feminism  Women in politics  Language and languages Political aspects  Political science
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Call number HQ1190.E43 1997
ISBN(s) 0801856000   9780801856006
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