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 Introduction Some seventy years ago, in the midst of darkening global horizons, a prominent American intellectual formulated a stunning vision that combined good government or public ethics with a general “regime of peace.” The name of the intellectual was Walter Lippmann, and the book announcing his vision was titled The Good Society. The book was first published in 1936, at a time when fascism was deeply entrenched in Germany and Italy, a totalitarian ideology was ruling Russia, and Japan was preparing for war—dark horizons indeed. But the situation was even more ominous and foreboding because nearly all the “advanced ” countries were under the spell of a shared belief: that social well-being could be assured through political power and ideological management, and that peace and security were the fruits of quasimilitary governmental controls. In Lippmann’s words: “Although the partisans who are now fighting for the mastery of the modern world wear shirts of different colors, their weapons are drawn from the same armory, their doctrines are variations of the same theme.” Their weapons, he continues, “are the coercive direction of life and labor of mankind; their doctrine is that disorder and misery can be overcome only by more and more compulsory organization; their promise is that through the power of the state men can be made happy.” Against this battery of shared assumptions, Lippmann pits an entirely different outlook—one predicated on the centrality of ethical “goodness” and the cultivation of public virtues as the gateway to general peace.1 In taking this opposing stand, The Good Society could draw on a long tradition of teachings, a tradition nurtured by two strands deriving , respectively, from Athens and Jerusalem. From Jerusalem comes the idea that human beings are not ultimately under the control of worldly rulers but are placed in the care of God, who has put a divine imprint on their hearts. Lippmann appeals to that legacy when he   In Search of the Good Life writes that, in light of biblical teachings, “the pretensions of despots became heretical,” and “the prerogatives of (sovereign) supremacy were radically undermined.” In light of the same legacy, the “inviolability of the human person” was declared, a notion that served as the rock on which “the rude foundations of the Good Society” could be built.2 The other strand can be traced back especially to Aristotle, who, in his Nicomachean Ethics, presented the ethically “good life” as the very meaning and telos of human existence. At the beginning of his Ethics, Aristotle reflects on what is “good” and even the “highest good” in human life and concludes that this highest good consists in “happiness” (eudaimonia); such happiness is a corollary of “living well” (eu zen) and “acting well” (eu prattein), that is, leading ethical or virtuous lives both alone and in a public community. Relying on common opinion, he states that “both the many and the cultivated” identify goodness with happiness and assume “that living well and doing well are the same as being happy.”3 Here, I want to explore this alternative conception traceable to Athens and Jerusalem—a conception that, in my view, stands in stark opposition to the modern glorification of sovereign power, totalizing ideologies, and abstract procedures. I do this in three steps. First, I pursue Lippmann’s argument in greater detail to see precisely how he wanted to obviate modern (or late modern) ills. Next, I turn to a more recent reformulation of the idea of a “good society” and an ethically grounded public philosophy offered by political theorist Michael Sandel . Finally, I explore the implications of these initiatives in our era and their possible contributions to an ethically informed global civil society and a global “regime of peace.” Lippmann’s Good Society Despite Lippmann’s career as a newspaper columnist, his Good Society is not an ordinary piece of journalism. What testifies to this career is the book’s lucidity and literary eloquence; what distinguishes it is its weighty substance transgressing concerns of the moment. Basically, the book takes issue with a long-standing preference or addiction in Western intellectual and political life: the addiction to will or willpower and, indeed, to sovereign will, in preference over the observance of ethical standards and shared rules of conduct. The addiction can be Introduction  traced from Machiavelli’s Prince to Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan all the way down to the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century. In a telling fashion, The Good Society launches a frontal attack on the...


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