Jean Bethke Elshtain: Politics, Ethics, and Society

University of Notre Dame Pess
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Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941–2013) was a noted ethicist, political philosopher, and public intellectual. Her four decades of scholarship defy easy categorization: she wrote both seminal works of theory and occasional pieces for the popular press, and she was variously viewed as radical and conservative, feminist and traditionalist, anti-war and pro-interventionist. Jean Bethke Elshtain: Politics, Ethics, and Society is the first attempt to evaluate Elshtain’s entire published body of work and to give shape to a wide-ranging scholarly career, with an eye to her work’s ongoing relevance. This collection of essays brings together scholars and public intellectuals from across the spectrum of disciplines in which Elshtain wrote. The volume is organized around four themes, which identify the central concerns that shaped Elshtain’s thought: (1) the nature of politics; (2) politics and religion; (3) international relations and just war; and (4) the end(s) of political life. The essays have been chosen not only for the expertise of each contributor as it bears on Elshtain’s work but also for their interpretive and analytic scope. This volume introduces readers to the work of a key contemporary thinker, using Elshtain’s writing as a lens through which to reflect on central political and scholarly debates of the last few decades. Jean Bethke Elshtain will be of great interest to specialists researching Elshtain and to scholars of multiple disciplines, particularly political theory, international relations, and religion. Contributors: Debra Erickson Sulai, Michael Le Chevallier, Robin W. Lovin, William A. Galston, Arlene W. Saxonhouse, Don Browning, Peter Berkowitz, Nancy J. Hirschmann, Michael Kessler, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Nigel Biggar, Gilbert Meilaender, Eric Gregory, Daniel Philpott, Marc LiVecche, Nicholas Rengger, John D. Carlson, Chris Brown, Michael Walzer, James Turner Johnson, Erik Owens, Francis Fukuyama, Carl Gershman, and Patrick J. Deneen.
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About the author

Debra Erickson is an instructor in philosophy at Bloomsburg University.

Michael Le Chevallier is a Ph.D. candidate in religious ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Notre Dame Pess
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Published on
Apr 30, 2018
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Pages
390
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ISBN
9780268103088
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Political Science / History & Theory
Religion / Ethics
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From the renowned and best-selling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence.

For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness—something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? With deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present.

While many historians have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam or Christianity’s Crusades), Armstrong looks at each faith—not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism—in its totality over time. As she describes, each arose in an agrarian society with plenty powerful landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land, then the only real source of wealth. In this world, religion was not the discrete and personal matter it would become for us but rather something that permeated all aspects of society. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.

In each tradition, however, a counterbalance to the warrior code also developed. Around sages, prophets, and mystics there grew up communities protesting the injustice and bloodshed endemic to agrarian society, the violence to which religion had become heir. And so by the time the great confessional faiths came of age, all understood themselves as ultimately devoted to peace, equality, and reconciliation, whatever the acts of violence perpetrated in their name.

Industrialization and modernity have ushered in an epoch of spectacular and unexampled violence, although, as Armstrong explains, relatively little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence—and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different creeds in our time.

At a moment of rising geopolitical chaos, the imperative of mutual understanding between nations and faith communities has never been more urgent, the dangers of action based on misunderstanding never greater. Informed by Armstrong’s sweeping erudition and personal commitment to the promotion of compassion, Fields of Blood makes vividly clear that religion is not the problem.
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