Community and Political Thought Today

By Peter Augustine Lawler; Dale McConkey | Go to book overview

NOTES

I could not have written this chapter without the help, advice, and love of Diane B. Gottlieb and Katja Gottlieb-Stier. I am indebted to the work of Michael Walzer, Jean Elshtain, and Charles Taylor for the fundamental perspective on political and social life that guided me in writing this chapter, as well as for more than a few of my specific arguments. See, among their many other works: Michael Walzer, What It Means to Be an American ( New York: Marcel Publishers, 1992); Jean Bethke Elshtain, Democracy on Trial ( New York: Basic Books, 1995); and Charles Taylor, "The Politics of Recognition" in his Philosophical Arguments ( Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995). Walzer, Elshtain, and Taylor should not, however, be held responsible for what I have done with what I learned from them.

1
I can give no more than a potted account of this argument here. I call this view Augustinian because it is Augustine who is in large part responsible for making it so central to our civilization. Some would argue that we should call this view Platonic. In my view, however, a careful reading of The Republic and Symposium would lead us to reject this conclusion.
2
This concern partly explains the peculiar fascination that people have with the sex lives of our politicians.
3
I can do no more than gesture to this argument here.
4
In addition, I stand with most Jews in rejecting the notion of original sin.
5
Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal ( New York: Vintage, 1996).
6
In my view, neither homosexual marriage nor the bathhouses are a threat to the practice of heterosexual marriage. But the conception of the place of sexuality in human life implicit in the practices found at the bathhouses is such a threat. Note, however, that the identical conception is implicit in the practices found at the heterosexual equivalents of the bathhouses, not to mention at many fraternity houses.
7
See Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America ( Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1984); Michael Novak, The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism ( New York: Free Press, 1993); and The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982).
8
Long ago Michael Walzer presented a social democratic argument for the "hollowing out" of the welfare state and its replacement by local, participatory, and often vol­ untary organizations. See his "Dissatisfaction in the Welfare State" in his Radical Principles ( New York: Basic Books, 1980).
9
It can be extended further to the regulatory activities of the state. I can't discuss this here, however.
10
In most cases, it is probably important for these neighborhood councils to have a broad rather than a narrow mandate. That is, they should play a role in many policy areas, such as governing local public schools, police protection, sanitation, planning, and so forth. The difficulty of political bodies with narrow mandates is that they are often neglected by many citizens who are not particularly concerned with one area of public policy. This leads to neighborhood councils being dominated by one faction in a community with a very particular interest. This is a reason for the ineffectiveness of community control of the elementary schools in New York City.
11
Since the aim would be to test schools, not students, a series of intensive tests could be given to randomly selected students or all of the students at certain grade levels rather

-68-

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