Democracy and Tradition (New Forum Books)

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9780691102931: Democracy and Tradition (New Forum Books)


Do religious arguments have a public role in the post-9/11 world? Can we hold democracy together despite fractures over moral issues? Are there moral limits on the struggle against terror? Asking how the citizens of modern democracy can reason with one another, this book carves out a controversial position between those who view religious voices as an anathema to democracy and those who believe democratic society is a moral wasteland because such voices are not heard.


Drawing inspiration from Whitman, Dewey, and Ellison, Jeffrey Stout sketches the proper role of religious discourse in a democracy. He discusses the fate of virtue, the legacy of racism, the moral issues implicated in the war on terrorism, and the objectivity of ethical norms. Against those who see no place for religious reasoning in the democratic arena, Stout champions a space for religious voices. But against increasingly vocal antiliberal thinkers, he argues that modern democracy can provide a moral vision and has made possible such moral achievements as civil rights precisely because it allows a multitude of claims to be heard.


Stout's distinctive pragmatism reconfigures the disputed area where religious thought, political theory, and philosophy meet. Charting a path beyond the current impasse between secular liberalism and the new traditionalism, Democracy and Tradition asks whether we have the moral strength to continue as a democratic people as it invigorates us to retrieve our democratic virtues from very real threats to their practice.


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"With a clarity that can only be gained through a charitable reading of those with whom he disagrees, Stout inaugurates a fresh conversation between advocates of democracy and those who hold substantive Christian convictions. In Democracy and Tradition, the Emersonian tradition is given new life, helping Americans envision what a vital politics contains."--Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School


"This is the most important work in political philosophy since Rawls published A Theory of Justice. Stout's account of the formation of democratic culture in America demonstrates that rights theory and virtue theory can and do cohere in a complex and rich tradition. With both eyes open, Stout displays both the serious challenges facing democracy in America (including the new religious traditionalists) and the resources for strengthening it (including feminist and African-American religious critics, as well as the American pragmatist tradition). This book should be taught alongside Rawls in law schools and Hauerwas in seminaries. It is also a substantial contribution to American studies, cultural studies, political theory, American history, and philosophical and religious ethics."--Charles Reynolds, University of Tennessee


"Jeffrey Stout has recast the debate about morality and tradition in our constitutional democracy. No more demonization, no more Manichean battles between 'militant secularists' and 'religious traditionalists.' Brilliantly original, historically sensitive, and analytically rigorous, Stout's writings are suffused with respect for the intelligence and goodwill of his fellow citizens, believers and nonbelievers alike."--M. Cathleen Kaveny, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame


"Stout has done more than any other writer to bring to our attention the problems facing democracy due to our inability to talk things over with religious believers. His book is an original, engaging, and very important contribution to the discussion of these problems. People in a wide variety of fields will need to pay attention to it."--J. B. Schneewind, The Johns Hopkins University


"Stout rejects the claim that liberal democracy is a moral wasteland, with no substantive idea of the good and only minimal resources for maintaining a shaky social order. He shows that democracy's moral achievements have been brought about by the uniquely democratic commitment to allowing all members of the community an equal voice in demanding reasons for action and policy touching the whole. Democracy and Tradition will give rise to a new set of questions about the place of religion in American politics and the way in which political philosophy is written."--G. Scott Davis, University of Richmond


About the Author:

Jeffrey Stout is Professor of Religion at Princeton University. He is the author of "Ethics after Babel" (Princeton) as well as essays and reviews in such journals as "The Monist, New Literary History", and "The Journal of Religion". He is a contributing editor of the "Journal of Religious" Ethics.

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Stout, Jeffrey
Published by Princeton University Press
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