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Adam Smith's Response to Rousseau
Adam Smith is popularly regarded as the ideological forefather of laissez-faire capitalism, while Rousseau is seen as the passionate advocate of the life of virtue in small, harmonious communities and as a sharp critic of the ills of commercial society. But, in fact, Smith had many of the same worries about commercial society that Rousseau did and was strongly influenced by his critique. In this first book-length comparative study of these leading eighteenth-century thinkers, Dennis Rasmussen highlights Smith’s sympathy with Rousseau’s concerns and analyzes in depth the ways in which Smith crafted his arguments to defend commercial society against these charges. These arguments, Rasmussen emphasizes, were pragmatic in nature, not ideological: it was Smith’s view that, all things considered, commercial society offered more benefits than the alternatives. Just because of this pragmatic orientation, Smith’s approach can be useful to us in assessing the pros and cons of commercial society today and thus contributes to a debate that is too much dominated by both dogmatic critics and doctrinaire champions of our modern commercial society.
History and Politics in Marx, Benjamin, and Derrida
Rereading Marx through Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida, The Promise of Memory attempts to establish a philosophy of liberation. Matthias Fritsch explores how memories of injustice relate to the promises of justice that democratic societies have inherited from the Enlightenment. Focusing on the Marxist promise for a classless society, since it contains a political promise whose institutionalization led to totalitarian outcomes, Fritsch argues that both memories and promises, if taken by themselves, are one-sided and potentially justify violence if they do not reflect on the implicit relation between them. He examines Benjamin’s reinterpretation of Marxism after the disappointment of the Russian and German revolutions and Derrida’s “messianic” inheritance of Marx after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. The book also contributes to contemporary political philosophy by relating Marxist social goals and German critical theory to debates about deconstructive ethics and politics.
Classical Virtue, Postmodern Practice
This excellent collection of essays appears at just the right moment. During the past two decades, interest in prudence has quickened and intensified in the humanities and qualitative social sciences, but previously we have had no systematic effort to deal with the topic on an interdisciplinary level. This collection fills the void and provides a valuable guide to the history of prudence and to its current status in a variety of academic disciplines.-Michael C. Leff, Northwestern UniversityRealizing that a world remade by techno-science and global capital stands in great need of practical wisdom as an antidote to various forms of modern hubris, scholars across the human sciences have taken a renewed interest in exploring how the classical virtue of prudence can be reformulated as a guide for postmodern practice.This volume brings together scholars in classics, political philosophy, and rhetoric to analyze prudence as a distinctive and vital form of political intelligence. Through case studies from each of the major periods in the history of prudence, the authors identify neglected resources for political judgment in today's conditions of pluralism and interdependency.Three assumptions inform these essays: the many dimensions of prudence cannot be adequately represented in the lexicon of any single discipline; the Aristotelian focus on prudence as rational calculation needs to be balanced by the Ciceronian emphasis on prudence as discursive performance embedded in familiar social practices; and understanding prudence requires attention to how it operates through the communicative media and public discourses that constitute the political community. Contributors, besides the editor, are Stephen H. Browne, Robert W. Cape Jr., Maurice Charland, Peter J. Diamond, Eugene Garver, James Jasinski, John S. Nelson, and Christine L. Oravec.
The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt
From the time she set the intellectual world on fire with her reflections on Eichmann (1963), Hannah Arendt has been seen, essentially, as a literary commentator who had interesting things to say about political and cultural matters. In this critical study, Shiraz Dossa argues that Arendt is a political theorist in the sense in which Aristotle is a theorist, and that the key to her political theory lies in the twin notions of the “public realm” and the “public self”.
In this work, the author explains how Arendt’s unconventional and controversial views make sense on the terrain of her political theory. He shows that her judgement on thinkers, actors, and events as diverse as Plato, Marx, Machiavelli, Freud, Conrad, Hobbes, Hitler, the Holocaust, the French Revolution, and European colonialism flow directly from her political theory.
Tracing the origins of this theory to Homer and Periclean Athens, Dossa underlines Arendt’s unique contribution to reinventing the idea and the ideal of citizenship, reminding us that the public realm is the locus of friendship, community, identity, and in a certain sense, humanity. Arendt believes that no one who prefets his or her private interest to public affairs in the old sense can claim to be fully human or truly excellent.
Rethinking the Microfoundations of Social Science
In Rawlsian Political Analysis: Rethinking the Microfoundations of Social Science, Paul Clements develops a new, morally grounded model of political and social analysis as a critique of and improvement on both neoclassical economics and rational choice theory. What if practical reason is based not only on interests and ideas of the good, as these theories have it, but also on principles and sentiments of right? The answer, Clements argues, requires a radical reorientation of social science from the idea of interests to the idea of social justice.
MacIntyre's Tradition-Constituted Reason and Frankfurt School Critical Theory
In Reason, Tradition, and the Good, Jeffery L. Nicholas addresses the failure of reason in modernity to bring about a just society, a society in which people can attain fulfillment. Developing the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Nicholas argues that we rely too heavily on a conception of rationality that is divorced from tradition and, therefore, incapable of judging ends. Without the ability to judge ends, we cannot engage in debate about the good life or the proper goods that we as individuals and as a society should pursue.
A Pragmatic Tradition from Emerson to Ellison
America has a love-hate relationship with individualism. In Reconstructing Individualism, James Albrecht argues that our conceptions of individualism have remained trapped within the assumptions of classic liberalism. He traces an alternative genealogy of individualist ethics in four major American thinkers-Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, John Dewey, and Ralph Ellison. These writers' shared commitments to pluralism (metaphysical and cultural), experimentalism, and a melioristic stance toward value and reform led them to describe the self as inherently relational. Accordingly, they articulate models of selfhood that are socially engaged and ethically responsible, and they argue that a reconceived-or, in Dewey's term, "reconstructed"-individualism is not merely compatible with but necessary to democratic community. Conceiving selfhood and community as interrelated processes, they call for an ongoing reform of social conditions so as to educate and liberate individuality, and, conversely, they affirm the essential role individuality plays in vitalizing communal efforts at reform.