Here are eleven books by four authors you should be aware of:
There is never a shortage of good books out there, nor of good authors. Here I want to introduce to you four authors that are worth being aware of. Some of you might already be familiar with some of these writers and thinkers, but perhaps most of you are not. Thus this post.
The four all speak about related issues: politics, political theology, political theory and political philosophy, among other things. If none of those topics are of interest to you, you might look away now. Or, read on, and perhaps discover that you are interested. What follows is a brief description of each author, a list of 2 or 3 books from each one, and one extract from each title to hopefully whet your appetite.
Yoram Hazony – The noted Israeli philosopher, political theorist and biblical scholar has penned a number of important volumes in recent years. Here I feature three key titles of his.
Conservatism: A Rediscovery. Regnery Gateway, 2022.
“A conservative approach to politics and morals cannot be made to work without the God of Scripture. We experience his presence as that countervailing force which stops every scheme of ideas, and every principle, from expanding infinitely outward until it has subjected all things to its rule. The God of Scripture circumscribes all human things, reducing them to their true proportions. Remove him from your thoughts, and your own scheme of ideas, which is local and incomplete, will begin to expand, overrunning its true boundaries. Indeed, it will continue to expand until you mistake it for something universal and complete, and the pronouncements of your own reason come to appear as if they were those of unchanging nature. At this moment, you mistake your own mind for that of God.” p. 206
God and Politics in Esther, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 1995, 2016.
“That Esther is not in place of God, but is rather playing a role in a larger story in which God is himself the principal actor, is eloquently alluded to in the expression that Mordechai uses to conclude the sentence “Who knows whether it was not for such a time as this that you came into royalty? . . . . On the surface, we see that Esther has come into royalty by becoming queen to the Persian king, Ahashverosh. But immediately beneath the surface of these passages is another meaning, emergent upon this one, as the rabbis recognized: By coming into worldly royalty, Esther has placed herself in a position to be able to act in the service of another king entirely.” p. 199
The Virtue of Nationalism. Basic Books, 2018.
“In this book, I have sought to understand what stands behind the biblical preference for a political order based on the national state, a preference that in modern times became a pillar of the Protestant construction of Western civilization. The institution of the national state, I have suggested, offers a number of advantages over the alternative forms of political order that are known to us: The national state, like empire, drives war to the borders of a large, politically ordered region, establishing a protected space in which peace and prosperity can take hold. But unlike empire, the independent national state inculcates an aversion to adventures of conquest in distant lands. Moreover, an order of national states offers the greatest possibility for the collective self-determination. It establishes a life of productive competition among nations, each striving to attain the maximal development of its abilities and those of its individual members. And it provides the state with the only known basis for the development of free institutions and individual liberties. These are considerable advantages, and in light of them I conclude that the best political order known to mankind is, in fact, an order of independent national states.” pp. 225-226
Ryszard Legutko – As someone who has lived under communist tyranny as well as liberal democracies, the Polish philosophy professor is well-placed to contrast, as well as compare, the two major forms of Western political life over the past several centuries.
The Cunning of Freedom. Encounter Books, 2021.
“Today’s thoughtcrimes … are many and growing in number: sexism, racism, Islamophobia, binary thinking, misogyny, and homophobia are just a few. What is shocking is that this number is far greater than the Communist system’s number of thoughtcrimes which, one would have thought, was unbeatable given its determination to unearth enemies and destroy them. But, apparently, liberalism has surpassed it. The dense system of taboos, thou-shalt-nots, and crooked redlines has created a particularly unpleasant environment for the human mind, and prevents it from roaming freely out of sheer curiosity in pursuit of the truth. The only prudent strategy one can take in this environment is to avoid ideological booby traps. All of them are deadly. The big question is not only why is this happening, but why is there so little resistance to the massive mendacity surrounding us?” p. 175
Demon In Democracy. Encounter Books, 2016.
“All the objectives the communists set for themselves, and which they pursued with savage brutality, were achieved by the liberal democrats who, almost without any effort and simply by allowing people to drift along with the flow of modernity, succeeded in converting churches into museums, restaurants, and public buildings, secularizing entire societies, making secularism the militant ideology, pushing religion to the sidelines, pressing the clergy into docility, and inspiring powerful mass culture with a strong antireligious bias in which a priest must be either a liberal challenging the church or a disgusting villain. In short – one may wonder – this nonreligious and antireligious reality of today’s Western world very close to the vision of the future without religion that the communists were so excited about, and which despite the millions of human lives sacrificed on the altar of progress, failed to materialize.” pp. 167-168
Stephen Strehle – The American religion and philosophy professor has written much on the relationship between religion and politics; between church and state. Here are three of his important works on these themes.
The Dark Side of Church/State Separation: The French Revolution, Nazi Germany, and International Communism. Routledge, 2014, 2017.
“This dark side of church/state separation serves as the basic concern of our present study. The plan is to exhibit certain cases in Western civilization, where political movements used the power of government to promote the French concept in forwarding an extreme secular agenda and destroy the Jewish and Christian community. The study first discovers the darker spirit working in France and emanating from the French Enlightenment and the proceeding Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. The new spirit permeated Western European civilization in varying degrees during the subsequent era and brought a visceral and irrational form of intense hatred toward the Judeo-Christian tradition, exaggerating the sins of the Ancien Régime and hoping to substitute a new etatism in the place of the former religious communities. The spirit wanted to unify its citizens by providing a new identity within the state and making war against the former religious passions as a divisive factor or rival for the loyalty of its people, preaching religious toleration, while transmuting the message into intolerance by treating the traditional faith as a form of bigotry, marginalizing its participation in society, and expanding the power of the secular state as the new focus of attention. In the process, the spirit proceeded to deny the significance of the church in developing the positive aspects of modern society and to exaggerate its own secular contribution in creating a better world at the church’s expense.” xii-xiii
The Egalitarian Spirit of Christianity: The Sacred Roots of American and British Government. Routledge, 2008.
“Too often religious influences are missed by scholars reared within a secular understanding of the world and unable to recognize or admit the importance of these ideas in the process. Their secular view of life tends to exalt secular accounts of the past as providing a linear progression toward the future. Their focus typically centers upon the sons of the Enlightenment because these ‘Founding Fathers’ emphasized rational argumentation, dismissed the importance of revealed religion, and provided secular sounding presentations in developing the principles of government. But these scholars fail to probe deeper into the antecedent cultural influences of that era. Too often American and British scholars limit their study to later English literature and misinterpret what is plainly before them because of this. Too often they fail to discover the deeper sources from which democratic, federal, and egalitarian ideals first arose on the continent of Europe—much in contrast to their English ancestors, who were not so provincial in their understanding of the world and its ideas.” xii-xiii
The Separation of Church & State: Has America Lost Its Moral Compass? Huntington House, 2000.
“The spiritual heritage of American culture cannot be denied by those who possess a most rudimentary knowledge of its past. Throughout much of its history, America has proclaimed itself to be a Christian nation with a manifest destiny before God. Many of its early settlers came to inhabit this land for the specific purpose of building a community that would honor their religious commitments. Most of the framers of its Constitution were members of orthodox Christian denominations and employed those beliefs in establishing its laws. Many of its greatest presidents – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, etc. – linked their political causes with God and the injunctions of Scripture. It was a matter of public policy to seek divine guidance in all things, and ask for divine blessing on the nation in its endeavors.” p. 23
Michael Walsh – With a number of works of fiction and non-fiction under his belt, the American/Irish author looks at some vital matters in these three volumes, ranging from critical theory and the war on the West to the need for heroes to defend the values we hold dear.
Against the Great Reset (editor). Bombardier Books, 2022.
“The satraps of Davos don’t want to simply reset a post-Covid world. Or a post-fossil fuels world. Or even a post-racial world. They want to run it, forever, and while they no longer have need of a god, they’ll always need an enemy. They may not believe in a power higher than themselves, but they certainly believe in demons, and their most irksome devil is you.” p. 17
See my review of this book here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/11/24/a-review-of-against-the-great-reset-edited-by-michael-walsh/
The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West. Encounter Books, 2015.
“I am not talking of garden-variety ‘liberals’ (actually, big-government statists, so long as that big government does not come down on them), who see Washington as a kind of taxpayer-funded supra-charity, dispensing goodies to the deserving poor and making sure chemicals aren’t dumped in the drinking water. Rather, I refer to the hard Left, the radicals, many of whom are now in power, who would remake (‘fundamentally transform’)—wreck—the United States of America and, by extension, the civilization of the West. On the other side are not conservatives per se, but those who see themselves in the role of conservators—preservers of the Western legacy who recognize that we should not lightly abandon a long, shared cultural tradition that, whatever its real or perceived faults, has been the primary engine of human moral, spiritual, social, scientific, and medical progress.” p. 4
Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost. St. Martin’s Press, 2020.
“Heroism … is the core of our self-understanding. If the importance of the individual is central to the social and political meaning of the West, if we are not to be cogs in a wheel or clerks in a gigantic post office, then our fates as free and autonomous men and women are what must most concern us – far more than the static and sometimes destructive collectivism that seeks to supplant our agency. Western art and culture is the story of heroes, not groups. What may seem today to be antiquated concepts of honor, virtue, glory, and the chivalric protection of women and children we forsake at our existential peril. The great stories of our patrimony are the stories of heroes, generally martial, not diplomats or committees.” p. 21
It is hoped that these four authors and eleven titles will be of interest to some of my readers. I do not expect that they will agree with everything said by these thinkers – I do not. But there is certainly much that can be learned and appreciated in their books nonetheless.