These thinkers are usually understood to have neglected or disparaged virtue. Yet Berkowitz shows that they all believed that government resting on the fundamental premise of liberalism--the natural freedom and equality of all human beings--could not work unless citizens and officeholders possess particular qualities of mind and character. These virtues, which include reflective judgment, sympathetic imagination, self-restraint, the ability to cooperate, and toleration do not arise spontaneously but must be cultivated. Berkowitz explores the various strategies the thinkers employ as they seek to give virtue its due while respecting individual liberty. Liberals, he argues, must combine energy and forbearance, finding public and private ways to support such nongovernmental institutions as the family and voluntary associations. For these institutions, the liberal tradition powerfully suggests, play an indispensable role not only in forming the virtues on which liberal democracy depends but in overcoming the vices that it tends to engender.
Clearly written and vigorously argued, this is a provocative work of political theory that speaks directly to complex issues at the heart of contemporary philosophy and public discussion.
New Forum Books makes available to general readers outstanding, original, interdisciplinary scholarship with a special focus on the juncture of culture, law, and politics. New Forum Books is guided by the conviction that law and politics not only reflect culture, but help to shape it. Authors include leading political scientists, sociologists, legal scholars, philosophers, theologians, historians, and economists writing for nonspecialist readers and scholars across a range of fields. Looking at questions such as political equality, the concept of rights, the problem of virtue in liberal politics, crime and punishment, population, poverty, economic development, and the international legal and political order, New Forum Books seeks to explain--not explain away--the difficult issues we face today.
For Novak, "covenantal rights" are rooted in God's primary rights as creator of the universe and as the elector of a particular community whose members relate to this God as their sovereign. The subsequent rights of individuals and communities flow from God's covenantal promises, which function as irrevocable entitlements. This presents a sharp contrast to the liberal tradition, in which rights flow above all from individuals. It also challenges the conservative idea that duties can take precedence over rights, since Novak argues that there are no covenantal duties that are not backed by correlative rights. Novak explains carefully and clearly how this theory of covenantal rights fits into Jewish tradition and applies to the relationships among God, the covenanted community, and individuals. This work is a profound and provocative contribution to contemporary religious and political theory.