Book Note: “As If God Existed”
Maurizio Viroli. As if God Existed: Religion and Liberty in the History of Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.
Religion and liberty are often thought to be mutual enemies: if religion has a natural ally, it is authoritarianism–not republicanism or democracy. But in this book, Maurizio Viroli, a leading historian of republican political thought, challenges this conventional wisdom. He argues that political emancipation and the defense of political liberty have always required the self-sacrifice of people with religious sentiments and a religious devotion to liberty.
The most controversial foundational issue today in both legal philosophy and constitutional law is the relationship between objective moral norms and the positive law. Is it possible for the state to be morally “neutral” about such matters as marriage, the family, religion, religious liberty, and – as the Supreme Court once famously phrased it – “the meaning of life”? If such neutrality is possible, is it desirable?
Book Review: “Uncommon Sense”
Earl M. Middleton and Joy W. Barnes. Knowing Who I Am: A Black Entrepreneur’s Struggle and Success in the American South. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008. Reviewed by Kirstin Steele (The Citadel).
Middleton was encouraged by friends, family, and business colleagues to write Knowing Who I Am. Similarly, he was encouraged to run for political offices, but it is apparent that before taking any actions, Middleton thought them through in terms of his big picture. He stayed in the South because “a primary business goal for [him] was to be in a line of work that would help improve the lives of blacks” (p. 77). In addition to having a societal vision, Middleton also excelled at long-range business strategy. By owning his own businesses and succeeding at them, he was able to work on civil rights issues without endangering his family’s livelihood. Middleton describes his many accomplishments in this context, expressing pride in himself personally and as an example to other African Americans, while using someone else’s words to eliminate any suggestion of arrogance: “Earl’s getting his flowers while he’s still alive!”
Book Review: “Humane Urbanism Rabbinically Conceived”
Aryeh Cohen. Justice in the City: An Argument from the Sources of Rabbinic Judaism. Brighton: Academic Studies Press, 2011. Reviewed by Jonathan K. Crane (Emory University).
It is always refreshing to read a book that renders the ancient Judaic textual tradition relevant to the complexities of modern living. Aryeh Cohen’s Justice in the City delves into the Babylonian Talmud and finds there ample ethical, philosophical, and legal sources that paint “a compelling picture of what a just city should be” (p. 9). A just city is not just any city in which residents go about their daily routines with mind-numbing hedonism. Rather, it is to be a “community of obligation” in which those “who are not always in view”–such as the homeless, poor, and working class–are nonetheless attended to and cared for (p. 9). Lest one worry that Cohen’s is an argument for each individual citizen to take on the burdens of caring for all the marginalized in a city and do nothing else, he stresses that it is the city’s responsibility as well to notice and attend to them. In this way a just city is precisely that: a city as a whole that is just (not just the individuals therein).
Call for Book Proposals: “Routledge Studies in Culture and Development”
New Book Series: Call for Proposals, Routledge Studies in Culture and Development
There is a burgeoning interest among academics, practitioners and policy-makers in the relationships between ‘culture’ and ‘development’. This embraces the now well-recognized need to adopt culturally-sensitive approaches in development practice, the necessity of understanding the cultural dimensions of development, and more specifically the role of culture for development. Culture, in all its dimensions, is a fundamental component of sustainable development, and throughout the world we are seeing an increasing number of governmental and non-governmental agencies turning to culture as a vehicle for economic growth, for promoting social cohesion, stability and human wellbeing, and for tackling environmental issues. At the same time, there has been remarkably little critical debate around this relationship, and even less concerned with the interventions of cultural institutions or creative industries in development agendas. The objective of the Routledge Studies in Culture and Development series is to fill this lacuna and provide a forum for reaching across academic, practitioner and policy-maker audiences.