Friday, October 7, 2011

Elshtain - Augustine and the Limits of Politics

 Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Augustine and the Limits of Politics. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995.

Well, I've finally given out this blog to my fellow grads. Why not keep updating it with crummy, lazy reviews?

Read For - ELQ's seminar on The Self

Elshtain and Augustine...sittin' in a tree... Each chapter takes on a different element of Augustine:

Chapter 2: The Earthly City and Its Discontents: An analysis of Augustine's thoughts on social institutions: politics, the city, the family/household, and marriage.
Chapter 3: Against the Pridefulness of Philosophy: "...pride that turns on the presumption that we are the sole and only ground of our own being...[is] the name Augustine gives to a particular form of corruption and human deformation." (50) Augustine understands humans in relation to each other as he grapples with how we can gain knowledge of the mind, self, world, and God. Science is no threat to Augustine: "Whatever can be explained [by natural science] let it be so." (57)
Chapter 4: Augustine's Evil, Arendt's Eichmann: My favorite chapter. "There is, Arendt concludes, a strange interdependence of thoughtlessness and evil." (74) Elshtain discusses Arendt's description of the "banality of evil" in terms of Augustine's rejection of the Manichean theory that evil is a substance all around us that pollutes us and causes us to do evil.(81) (By the same token, neither is God a substance all around us). Rather, Augustine and Arendt agree that this conception of evil displaces guilt; instead, the lesson of the Nazi Eichmann and Nazism in general should be that we all have the free will to do good or evil. Nazism was a horrible political machine, but as powerful as it was, people still had the options to resist, do nothing, or go along. Nature itself cannot be evil, because it was created by God.
Chapter 5: "Our business within this common mortal life": Augustine and a Politics of Limits:
Elshtain reiterates her main themes, returning to social relations touched on in chapter 2. Augustinian love is central to an ideal society, and worth requoting here:
"Love, then, is not expended like money...for when money is received, it is so much gain to the recipient but so much loss to the donor; love, on the other hand, is not only augmented in the man who demands it back from the person he loves, even when he does not receive it, but the person who returns it actually begins to possess it only when he pays it back." (quoted and discussed 89-90)
This echoes Plotinus, "On Love."

Other Quotes
p.66 Dennis Martin quote: “at the heart of ancient Christian theory one finds the theme of limitless gift, even to the point of God suffering death by powerlessness (crucifixion), a concept dramatically and ubiquitously symbolized by the crucifix at a level even the simplest mind could grasp, this might have been particularly significant in a culture in which giving and receiving gifts shaped social, political, and economic dynamics.”

p.97 Love as the tie that binds societies together
"This is where love comes in-love of God and love of neighbor-and this is where justice enters as well. Augustine's alternative definition starts with love. 'A people is the association of a multitude of rational beings united by a common agreement on the objects of their love.' It 'follows that to observe the character of a particular people we must examine the objects of its love.' No single man can create a commonwealth. There is no ur-Founder, no great bringer of order. It begins in ties of fellowship, in households, clans, and tribes, in earthly love and its many discontents. And it begins in an ontology of peace, not war."
Just war: made out of a desire for peace in our own homes.

I can see why ELQ would assign this. In many ways, it reaches back to Augustine to offer solutions of faith to the problems raised by Phillip Rieff.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Index: Modern American Culture


~~A Reading List~~

Conceptual, Theoretical…

Alexander, Jeffrey C., and Steven Seidman. Culture and Society: Contemporary Debates. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

XX Gramsci, Antonio. “Culture and Ideological Hegemony.”

XX Saussure, Ferdinand. “Signs and language.”

XX Sahlins, Marshall. “Food as symbolic code.”

XX Goffman, Erving. “Out-of-frame Activity.”

XX Walzer, Michael. “Puritanism and Revolutionary Ideology.”

XX Turner, Victor. “Liminality and Community.”

XX Douglas, Mary. “Symbolic Pollution.”

XX Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll. “Sex as Symbol in Victorian Purity.”

XX Bordieu, Pierre. “Artistic Taste and Cultural Capital.”

XX Bellah, Robert. “Civil Religion in America.”

XX Adorno, Theodor W. “Culture Industry Reconsidered.”

XX Bell, Daniel. “The End of Ideology in the West.”

XX Lyotard, Jurgen. “The Postmodern Condition.”

XX Anderson, Benedict R. O'G. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 2006.

XX Foucault, Michel. “Birth of the Asylum.” From Madness and Civilization; A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Pantheon Books, 1965.

XX Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton, 1962.

XX Geertz, Clifford. “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.” From The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books, 1973.

XX Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. New York: Norton, 1977.

"Beyond the Reality Principle"

"The Mirror Stage..."

XX Rieff, Philip. The Triumph of the Therapeutic; Uses of Faith After Freud. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.

XX Riesman, David. The Lonely Crowd; A Study of the Changing American Character. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950.

XX Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

XX Thompson, E.P., “Time, work-discipline, and industrial capitalism” in Flinn, Michael W., and T. C. Smout. Essays in Social History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974.

XX Williams, Raymond. “Means of Communication in Means of Production” AND “Ideas of Nature” from Williams. Culture and Materialism: Selected Essays. London: Verso, 2005.

Bottom of Form

Social & Cultural Criticism

XX Bell, Daniel. The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 1976.

XX Sandel, Michael. "America's Search for a New Public Philosophy," Atlantic Monthly, March 1996

XX Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: Norton, 1978.

XX Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

XX Slater, Philip Elliot. The Pursuit of Loneliness; American Culture at the Breaking Point. Boston: Beacon Press, 1970.

General Culture

XX Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

XX Gurstein, Rochelle. “On the obsolescence of "Puritanism" as an epithet.” From Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth, and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn. Reconstructing History: The Emergence of a New Historical Society. New York: Routledge, 1999.

XX Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

XX Kammen, Michael G. Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture. New York: Knopf, 1991.

XX Lears, T. J. Jackson. No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920. New York: Pantheon Books, 1981.

XX Levine, Lawrence W. Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002.

XX Sontag, Susan. “Notes on Camp.” From Against Interpretation: And Other Essays. New York: Dell Pub. Co, 1966.

XX Susman, Warren. Culture As History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. Read only parts III & IV.

XX Terkel, Studs. Hard Times. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970. Get a sense

XX Thompson, Emily Ann. The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2002

Art History

XX Harris, Neil. Cultural Excursions: Marketing Appetites and Cultural Tastes in Modern America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Chapters 1,8,9,13,14

XX Rosenberg, Harold. 1952. "The American Action Painters". Art News.

Consumer and Advertising Culture

XX Cohen, Lizabeth. A Consumer's Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America. New York: Vintage Books, 2004.

XX Ewen, Stuart. Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.

XX Lears, T.J. Jackson. “From Salvation to Self-Realization: Advertising and the Therapeutic Roots of the Consumer Culture, 1880-1930.” From Fox, Richard Wightman, and Lears. The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 1880-1980. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983.

XX Frank, Thomas. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

XX Marchand, Roland. Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Gender, Sexuality, Sex

XX Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Makings of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. New York: Basic Books, 1994.

XX Evans, Sara M. Personal Politics: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left. New York: Knopf : distributed by Random House, 1979.

XX Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W.W. Norton, 1963.

XX Lasch, Christopher. “The sexual division of labor, the decline of civic culture, and the rise of the suburbs.” From Lasch, Christopher, and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn. Women and the Common Life: Love, Marriage, and Feminism. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1997.

XX Welter, Barbara. 1966. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860". American Quarterly. 18, no. 2: 151-174. http:/


XX Gerstle, Gary. American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

XX Lasch-Quinn, Elisabeth. Black Neighbors: Race and the Limits of Reform in the American Settlement House Movement, 1890-1945. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

XX Lasch-Quinn, Elisabeth. Race Experts: How Racial Etiquette, Sensitivity Training, and New Age Therapy Hijacked the Civil Rights Revolution. New York: Norton, 2001.

XX Luker, Ralph. The Social Gospel in Black and White: American Racial Reform, 1885-1912. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.


XX Hunter, James Davison. Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. New York: BasicBooks, 1991.

XX McCarraher, Eugene. Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse in Modern American Social Thought. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

XX Orsi, Robert A. The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

Social Movements

XX Bottom of FormDenning, Michael. The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century. London: Verso, 1998.

XX Gitlin, Todd. The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making & Unmaking of the New Left. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

XX Isserman, Maurice. If I Had a Hammer--: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left. New York: Basic Books, 1987.

XX Pells, Richard H. Radical Visions and American Dreams; Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. Relates to Hard Times


XX Frith, Simon. Sound Effects: Youth, Leisure, and the Politics of Rock'n'roll. New York: Pantheon Books, 1981.