One of the most perceptive and ambidextrous social commentators of our day, Augustinian scholar Jean Bethke Elshtain furnishes in ever fresh ways through her writings a bridge between the ancient and the modern, between politics and ethics, between timeless moral wisdom and cultural sensitivity. To read Elshtain seriously is to take the study of culture as well as the "permanent things" seriously. But Elshtain is no mere moralist. Neither is she content solely to dwell in the domain of the theoretical. (...) For it is Elshtain the citizen - the creatively engaged and contributing citizen - whom the reader encounters on virtually every page of her writings. But reader beware: Elshtain does not shy away from controversy. At the same time, she is anything but a controversialist. In the essay that follows, several prominent themes that emerge from Elstain's writings - civic responsibility, justice, gender, and war - are considered afresh. Whether one agrees with her positions or not, one is forced to confess in the end that she cares deeply about the common good. And this alone makes her required reading for any engaged citizen of the republic. (shrink)
Recent critics have called attention to the alienation of contemporary academics from broad currents of intellectual activity in public culture. The general complaint is that intellectuals are finding a professional home in institutions of higher learning, insulated from the concerns and interests of a wider reading audience. The demands of professional expertise do not encourage academics to work as public intellectuals or to take up social, literary, or political matters in imaginative and perspicuous ways. More problematic is the relative absence (...) of religion in the writings of those who aspire to work as public intellectuals. This essay reviews recent attempts by William Dean, Cornel West, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Stephen Carter, and Robin Lovin to remedy the problem of academic alienation and to address the place of religion in American life. (shrink)
Each chapter of this book treats a particular historical or contemporary topic of civic concern. Some are centered on current family crises and issues (the "family wage," child abuse, the "new eugenics") while others look to the wider national and international polity. Yet each, insistently, returns to common themes: the many faces and forms of power; struggles for autonomy; the need for human sociality and community. Elshtain's essays on controversial domestic subjects demonstrate her independence of mind, her understanding of politics (...) as the art of the possible, and her openness to debate. In the last section, related essays on women's power and powerlessness, on patriotism, and on just war track a movement from domestic politics to foreign affairs. They are cautionary tales which simultaneously express realizable hopes and honor those, like the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina, who have taught us, through their desperation and triumph, what it means to fashion a politics of hope and justice against a politics of vengeance and despair. (shrink)
Have we any obligations beyond our own borders? What form do these take? These questions are addressed through a concept of comparative justice indebted to the just war tradition and the equal moral regard of persons.
In Cultivating Citizens Dwight Allman and Michael Beaty bring together some of America's leading social and political thinkers to address the question of civic vitality in contemporary American society. The resulting volume is a serious reflection on the history of civil society and a rich and rewarding conversation about the future American civic order.
In an era in which certain arenas of scientific research have become increasingly controversial, this article critically evaluates what it means to “believe in science.” Many scientists today seem to claim a sovereign right to no political interference under the rubric of freedom. This article questions such a notion, and explores the dominance of science and the silencing of moral voices by undertaking two brief investigations—the first into National Socialist Germany, which insisted that it was defined by “applied biology,” and (...) the second into the world of contemporary American biomedicine. When all ethical barriers are eradicated, it seems that a will to power takes over—manifested in Nazi Germany’s vaunted scientific autonomy. In light of these sobering historical examples, this article reminds the reader that members of the public, including physicians, rightly deliberate about how to conscientiously order their lives together, and that part of that instrinsically political deliberation is to set limits to the ways medical science is applied and what scientists may do in pursuit of their goals. (shrink)
Available Again! Long before the "shock and awe" campaign against Iraq in March 2003, debates swarmed around the justifications of the U.S.-led war to depose Saddam Hussein. While George W. Bush's administration declared a just war of necessity, opponents charged that it was a war of choice, and even opportunism. Behind the rhetoric lie vital questions: when is war just, and what means are acceptable even in the course of a just war? Originally published in 1991, in the wake of (...) the first war against Iraq, Just War Theory explores this essential dilemma. With a new preface by the editor, the essays in this indispensable collection move beyond the theoretical origins of just war theory to examine issues faced by military strategists, politicians, social theorists, and anyone concerned with the provocations and costs of military action. Popular wisdom once claimed that notions of just war would become obsolete with the onset of "total warfare," characterized by attacks on civilians and undiscriminating weapons of mass destruction. While the last decade has been ripe with brutality, just war theory is more critical than ever to the future of international relations and public discourse. This readable collection is an invaluable introduction to the debate. (shrink)
Has moral relativism run its course? The threat of 9/11, terrorism, reproductive technology, and globalization has forced us to ask anew whether there are universal moral truths upon which to base ethical and political judgments. In this timely edited collection, distinguished scholars present and test the best answers to this question. These insightful responses temper the strong antithesis between universalism and relativism and retain sensitivity to how language and history shape the context of our moral decisions. This important and relevant (...) work of contemporary political and social thought is ideal for use in the classroom across many disciplines, including political science, philosophy, ethics, law, and theology. (shrink)
Though Bonhoeffer is usually thought to have been one of the architects of modern theology, he was also one of modernity’s most penetrating critics. The author lays out Bonhoeffer’s challenges to certain cherished modern assumptions by examining (1) his linkage of totalitarianism to the political utopianism that arose out of the French Revolution, (2) his fear of the nihilistic implications of the rationalists’ notion of the sovereign self and of the modern tendency to view life as an end in itself, (...) and (3) his suspicion of all forms of moral absolutism, including the Kantian absolutizing of the duty to tell the truth. What emerges is a picture of Bonhoeffer as a theologian who coupled a keen sense of our creatureliness and limitation with a resolute belief in the activity of God in history, and of Bonhoeffer as an ethicist who generated a Christian relational ethics that offers an alternative to both the ethics of abstract principle and the ethics of intuitive situational response. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
This book is a collection of secondary essays on America's most important philosophic thinkers—statesmen, judges, writers, educators, and activists—from the colonial period to the present. Each essay is a comprehensive introduction to the thought of a noted American on the fundamental meaning of the American regime.
This topically organized, interdisciplinary anthology provides competing perspective on the claim that western culture faces a moral crisis. Using clearly written, accessible essays by well-known authors in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities, the book introduces students to a variety of perspectives on the current cultural debate about values that percolates beneath the surface of most of our social and political controversies.
A work of contemporary Christian political thought, this volume addresses the crisis of modern democracy evident in the decline of the institutions of civil society and their theoretical justification. Drawing upon a rich store of social and political reflection found in the Catholic and Neo-Calvinist traditions, the essays mount a robust defense of the irreducible identity and value of the social institutions_family, neighborhood, church, civic association_that serve as the connective tissue of a political community.
The purpose of this valuable book is to consider recent cultural trends in bioethics from a Catholic perspective. Bioethics is intended for a lay audience interested in understanding bioethical issues from a Catholic perspective.
'Europa is eeuwenlang gekenmerkt door een energieke dialoog tussen geloof en ongeloof. Wat gebeurt er als je één kant van de dialoog verliest? Dan ontwikkelt de resterende kant in zijn isolement een monsterachtige groei en loopt hij uit op het Europese nihilisme dat nu zichtbaar wordt in de culturele uitputting van Europa. [...]Het kwaad hoeft niet de vorm aan te nemen van een seriemoordenaar of een monster zoals Hitler. Het kan de vorm aannemen van medici met naalden voor het ombrengen (...) van gehandicapte pasgeborenen of van zwakke patiënten die misschien aan depressie lijden, in plaats van hen te genezen en te verzorgen; of de vorm van het isoleren en verwaarlozen van immigranten; de vorm van het negeren van antisociaal gedrag en wreedheid tot het zich openbaart als openlijke en algemene criminaliteit; de vorm van een onverschilligheid die een fanatieke minderheid, in de naam van verdraagzaamheid, in staat stelt op te roepen tot het ombrengen van degenen die spotprenten hebben getekend, en tot nog meer zelfmoordaanslagen en moorden op onschuldigen. Het is deze weigering om Europa aan een definitie te binden die het gezicht van het Europese nihilisme bepaalt. En als er dan een reactie komt, is deze waarschijnlijk extreem en vertekend, omdat er zo lang onverschilligheid heeft geheerst.Het grote Europa van de verbeelding zal ondergaan wanneer Europa verschrompelt tot iets waarin haar beste kwaliteiten niet langer herkenbaar zijn.’. (shrink)
Who or what determines the right to die? Do advancing reproductive technologies change reproductive rights? What forces influence cultural standards of beauty? How do discipline, punishment, and torture reflect our attitudes about the human body? In this challenging new book, Jean Bethke Elshtain, a nationally recognized scholar in political science and philosophy, and J. Timothy Cloyd, a strong new voice in social and political science, have assembled a collection of thought-provoking essays on these issues written by some of the finest (...) minds of our day. (shrink)
The March 2002 symposium Human Dignity and Reproductive Technology brought together philosophers, theologians, scientists, lawyers, and scholars from across the United States. The essays of this book are the contributions of the symposium's participants.
This volume brings together eminent theologians, philosophers and political theorists to discuss such questions as how religious understandings have shaped the moral landscape of contemporary culture; the possible contributions of theology and theologically informed moral argument to contemporary public life; the problem of religious and moral discourse in a pluralistic society; and the proper relationship between religion and culture.
Though Bonhoeffer is usually thought to have been one of the architects of modern theology, he was also one of modernity's most penetrating critics. The author lays out Bonhoeffer's challenges to certain cherished modern assumptions by examining (1) his linkage of totalitarianism to the political utopianism that arose out of the French Revolution, (2) his fear of the nihilistic implications of the rationalists' notion of the sovereign self and of the modern tendency to view life as an end in itself, (...) and (3) his suspicion of all forms of moral absolutism, including the Kantian absolutizing of the duty to tell the truth. What emerges is a picture of Bonhoeffer as a theologian who coupled a keen sense of our creatureliness and limitation with a resolute belief in the activity of God in history, and of Bonhoeffer as an ethicist who generated a Christian relational ethics that offers an alternative to both the ethics of abstract principle and the ethics of intuitive situational response. (shrink)
I will be arguing against a school of thought and an epistemology. The school of thought is ‘scientific neorealism’, as it is called in the study of international relations. This perspective is shaped by the insistence that ethics and international politics have nothing to do with one another, save insofar as morality is brought in as window dressing in order to disguise what is really going on: the clash of narrowly self-interested powers. The world of international relations is construed as (...) a zone of self-help in a Hobbesian clash of a war of all against all. For more than twenty-five years now, I have argued that, to the contrary, ethics does not stop at the water's edge and morality is not silent during war. (shrink)
The following essay examines the temptations of ultimacy in 20th-century politics, namely, the urge to infuse temporal arrangements with transcendental meaning and purpose. This sets up an idolatry of the state or of political processes and brings to a halt the complex dialectic between immanence and transcendence, between what Bonhoeffer calls the “penultimate” and the “ultimate.” This dialogic encounter between claims, loyalties, purposes, and meanings defines the West at her best. When the window to transcendence is slammed shut and politics (...) is subsequently sacralized, the result is a politics that crushes human freedom in the name of a divinized ideological purpose. In addition to Bonhoeffer, the essay brings the work of Albert Camus to bear in analyzing this matter and offering up a politics that is neither “too low” (simply a remedy for sin) nor that aims too high and thereby, paradoxically, descends into those hells on earth that were 20th-century totalitarian societies. (shrink)