Category: Publications

Today’s post will look at the Georgetown University Press Religion & Ethics catalog and the Westminster John Knox Academic Update (series index):

Titles from Georgetown University Press:

Titles from Westminster John Knox:

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Monday, December 17, 2007

The extraordinarily prolific George Weigel has another book out: Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism. Weigel’s books are without fail thought-provoking and clearly stated, though the force, clarity, and breadth of his thought will likely result in at least one or two points of disagreement with any reader.

Another source of Weigel’s controversial character is also one of his most praiseworthy attributes: his willingness to make concrete political and practical recommendations (or, sometimes, exhortations). He is a smart and sophisticated thinker, but his thought does not remain at the level of the ethereal. It is in constant interaction with realities’ limits and deficiencies, rendering it both more convincing and more useful.

His burden in Faith is to demonstrate that Islamic jihadism (no, Marc, not climate change) is the single most urgent problem requiring the attention of civilized folk of all persuasions (Christian, agnostic, Muslim; right, left). I worried temporarily that the book would be in large part an apologia for the current war in Iraq, but it is not. Weigel argues that it is necessary to see the thing through at this point, but his catalogue of errors in the preparation for and waging of the war (82-86) is well done. What he lefts unsaid is that the mistakes he enumerates basically add up to a failure to attain an adequate understanding of the political, religious, and cultural factors at play in Iraq, and therefore to underestimate the difficulty of the task left after the main combat aim had been achieved. But is this not a persistent and perennial (inevitable?) problem attending such military interventions and, therefore, does it not suggest greater reluctance to embark on them?

That question aside, Weigel builds a formidable case. His treatment of the situation in Iran (100ff.) and his warning against the dangers of “self-imposed dhimmitude” (125) evident not only throughout Europe but also in the United States, are indeed bracing and should be wake-up calls to anyone who has slumbered through 9/11, the Madrid and London bombings, Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, and the Danish cartoon controversy, to cite only a selection.

It is rare that a call for bipartisanship rises above the level of cynical and rhetorical, but Weigel’s effort does so. The small government conservative and the global warming lefty should be able to agree that the world’s dependence on a handful of nations’ oil reserves (and those nations’ consequent dependence on oil income to the neglect of any broader engagement with a global trade in goods and ideas) is not healthy and we must find ways to overcome it. The believer and the secularist should be able to agree that religion is not going away anytime soon and so we better find a way to live in a religiously pluralist world without resorting to violence. (If you smugly think that we Americans already have and religioius pluralism isn’t going to cause any trouble here, then you better read this book.)

It’s a book well worth a look, and a bit of reflection.

Today’s post will look at the Boydell & Brewer Early Modern & Modern History catalog and the de Gruyter Religious Studies/Jewish Studies/Theology catalog (series index):

Titles from Boydell & Brewer:

Titles from de Grutyer:

I’ve had a number of new book catalogs cross my desk over the last few months. Given the gift-giving season that is upon us, I thought I’d highlight some of the more interesting items from the various publishers. If you share my varied and rather eclectic interests, ranging from scholarly to popular works on a number of subjects, you might find something here you could add to your own Christmas list (although some items are forthcoming for 2008).

Today’s post will look at the Ashgate Reformation Studies catalog and the Crossway Academic & Pastoral Resources catalog:

Titles from Ashgate:

Titles from Crossway:

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Cato Institute and Randal O’Toole offer an appealing new book, The Best Laid Plans—a recounting of the failures of government planning. Think of it as extensive documentation of the truth Hayek observed half a century ago: it is impossible for a central authority to collect all the information or make all the predictions necessary to foresee how economic activity will play out. Therefore, it is impossible to plan centrally the operation of major sectors of the economy such as transportation and land use. (More precisely, it is impossible to do it well.)

Those two items—transportation and land use—are the main focus of O’Toole’s book. A taste, from the introduction:

Somewhere in the United States today, government officials are writing a plan that will profoundly affect other people’s lives, incomes, and property. Though it may be written with the best intentions, the plan will go horribly wrong. The costs will be far higher than anticipated, the benefits will prove far smaller, and various unintended consequences will turn out to be worse than even the plans critics predicted.

This issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality features a scholia translation of Cardinal Cajetan’s (1469-1534) influential treatise On Exchanging Money (1499). Cajetan is the author of the officially approved commentaries on the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, which are easily available in the magnificent Leonine edition of this magnum opus. He is even more famous as the papal legate whom Leo X (1513-1521) dispatched to Germany in a futile effort to bring Martin Luther back into the Roman fold. Economic historians have pointed out that Cajetan’s treatise holds a decisive place in the history of economics because it set forth the fullest and most unqualified defense of the foreign exchange market at its date of publication.

We are also pleased to publish Raymond de Roover’s essay, “Cardinal Cajetan on ‘Cambium’ or Exchange Dealings,” both as an introduction to the Cajetan scholia as well as “a testament to †Raymond de Roover’s original and enduring contribution to the field of economic historiography.” Likewise, this issue’s editorial by Stephen J. Grabill surveys “Raymond de Roover’s Enduring Contribution to Economic History.”

The editorial and article abstracts are freely available to nonsubscribers (you can sign up for a subscription here, including the very affordable electronic-only access option).

Other articles included in this issue:

  • “The Price of Freedom: Consumerism and Liberty in Secular Research and Catholic Teaching,” by Andrew V. Abela

  • “Ideas, Associations, and the Making of Good Cities,” by Robert Driscoll
  • “The Claim for Secularization as a Contemporary Utopia,” by Jan Klos
  • “The Fiscal and Tributary Philosophy of Antonio Rosmini,” by Carlos Hoevel
  • “A ‘Marketless World’? An Examination of Wealth and Exchange in the Gospels and First-Century Palestine,” by Edd S. Noell
  • “Intersubjectivity, Subjectivism, Social Sciences, and the Austrian School of Economics,” by Gabriel J. Zanotti
  • “Can Social Justice Be Achieved?” by José Manuel Moreira & Arnaud Pellissier Tanon

Also included is our usual outstanding fare of book reviews, courtesy the editorial oversight of Kevin Schmiesing.

Earlier this month, Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson complained about the lack of creative thinking concerning the issue of social security. “Washington’s vaunted think tanks — citadels for public intellectuals both liberal and conservative — have tiptoed around the problem,” he wrote. “Ideally, think tanks expand the public conversation by saying things too controversial for politicians to say on their own. Here, they’ve abdicated that role.”

As though on cue, in the publications pipeline at the time was the latest in Acton’s Christian Social Thought Series, Pensions, Population, and Prosperity by Oskari Juurikkala.

Samuelson states the issue that befuddles policy wonks: “The aging of America is not just a population change or, as a budget problem, an accounting exercise. It involves a profound transformation of the nature of government: Commitments to the older population are slowly overwhelming other public goals; the national government is becoming mainly an income-transfer mechanism from younger workers to older retirees.”

A problem of such proportions requires an innovative solution. Juurikkala combines a closely reasoned analysis of current pension systems around the world with a bold and radical proposal to shift responsibility for old-age care away from the state and back to the family. It’s the only way, he argues, to create a “social security system” that is at once durable and humane.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, August 10, 2007

Here are some book reviews of note from recent weeks that you may find to be of interest:

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Today marks the day that the Acton Institute broadens its horizons… If you haven’t noticed, we’ve literally widened our blog to 900px, creating a bit more space for all the things we have to say. We’ve also changed the location of the blog to http://blog.acton.org/. All of our old links (http://www.acton.org/blog/…) should still work although there may be occasions when they won’t. Please don’t hesitate to leave notification of old links that don’t work in the comments section of this post.Technorati Profile

You may also want to update your RSS feeds, although the old ones should still work. The general PowerBlog RSS feed is now http://blog.acton.org/feeds/index.rss2. Another nifty feature that we’re adding is the ability to grab an RSS feed of a particular author. So, if you just can’t get enough of Marc’s “Global Warming Consensus Alerts,” scroll down till you find the “Authors” box on the lefthand column of the page and click on the XML icon next to Marc’s name.

If you haven’t checked out this piece in the most recent issue of Religion & Liberty, you owe it to yourself to do so: “The Leaky Bucket: Why Conservatives Need to Learn the Art of Story,” by David Michael Phelps.

In this essay, Phelps makes the claim, “While conservativism is now a powerful force in the American political landscape, it is still the underdog in a war of connotation. (This is evident in the fact that the phrase ‘compassionate conservative’ had to be invented.) And I think there are two reasons why conservativism, by and large, does not yet appeal to the heart as does ‘bleeding heart’ liberalism.”

Here are two items in support of Phelps’ thesis. The first is from Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society, in which Niebuhr is discussing Marx’s doctrine of the proletariat’s eschatological destiny. It is clear that Marx’s narrative has captured Niebuhr’s imagination:

There is something rather imposing in this doctrine of Marx. It is more than a doctrine. It is a dramatic, and to some degree, a religious interpretation of proletarian destiny. In such insights as this, rather than in his economics, one must discover the real significance of Marx. His economic theory of labor value may be impossible, but this attempt at the transvaluation of values is in the grand style. To make the degradation of the proletarian the cause of his ultimate exaltation, to find in the very disaster of his social defeat the harbinger of his final victory, and to see in his loss of all property the future of a civilisation in which no one will have privileges of property, this is to snatch victory out of defeat in the style of great drama and classical religion.”

The second piece is a quote from a comment on another blog that struck my fancy:

Acad Ronin writes:

I got the following from a mystery novel set on the English-Scottish border in the 14th Century or so. It’s the best treatment of the issue of the rule of law that I have found to date.

Rule of Law

Carey looked down at his hands. “Do you know what justice is?” he asked at last, in an oddly remote voice. “Justice is an accident, really. It’s law that’s important. Do you know what the rule of law is?”

“I think so. When people obey the laws so there’s peace…”

Carey was shaking his head. “No. It’s the transfer of the duty of revenge to the Queen. It’s the officers of the Crown avenging a man’s murder, not the man’s father or the family. Without law what you have is feud, tangling between themselves, and murder repaying murder down the generations. As we have here. But if the Queen’s Officers can be relied on to take revenge for a killing, then the feuding must stop because if you feud against the Queen, it’s high treason. That’s all. That’s all that happens in a law-abiding country: the dead man’s family know that the Crown will carry their feud for them. Without it you have bloody chaos.”

It was strange to hear anyone talk so intensely of such a dusty subject as law; and yet there was a fire and passion in Carey’s words as if the rule of law was infinitely precious to him.

“All we can do to stop the borderers killing each other is give them the promise of justice – which is the accidental result when the Crown hangs the man who did the killing,” he said, watching his linked fingers. They were still empty of rings and look oddly bare. “You see, if it was only a bloodfeud, anyone of the right surname would do. But with the law, it should be the man that did the killing, and that’s justice. Not just to take vengeance but to take vengeance on the right man.”

“So you’ll make out a bill for Sweetmilk Graham and go through all the trouble of trying Hepburn and producing witnesses and finding him-guilty …”

“And then hanging him, when a word to Jock of the Peartree would produce the same result a lot more easily. But that wouldn’t be justice, you see, that would only be more feuding, more private revenge which has nothing to do with justice or law or anything else. Justice requires that the man have a trial and face his accusers.”

Source: Chisolm, P.F. 1994. A Famine of Horses. New York: Walker and Co.

Now there’s a conception of the rule of law portrayed in compelling narrative form.

See also, “The Morality of Narrative Imagination,” “Bavinck on the Moral Imagination,” and Reinhold Niebuhr Today.