Public Vision, Private Lives: Rousseau, Religion, and 21st-Century Democracy

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Listening closely to the religious pitch in Rousseau's voice, Cladis convincingly shows that Rousseau, when attempting to portray the most characteristic aspects of the public and private, reached for a religious vocabulary. Honoring both love of self and love of that which is larger than the self—these twin poles, with all the tension between them—mark Rousseau's work, vision and challenge—the challenge of 21st-century democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Elegantly organized and engagingly written, serving at once as a window into the origins of modernity and as a mirror of our present condition. . Highly Recommended"—Choice

"Cladis's new book does for Rousseau what his first book did for Durkheim. For he has provided a rich historical context for understanding Rousseau's most important works while also shedding a great deal of fresh light on contemporary concerns in philosophy, political theory, and religious thought. This is the most important discussion of the conflicts between public and private life yet written by a specialist in modern religious thought. The writing is clear and vigorous, the thinking is careful and well-informed throughout. A wonderful book."—Jeffrey Stout, Professor of Religion, Princeton University

"Mark Cladis moves us to appreciate the ways in which heartfelt piety and robust democracy can check and cross-fertilize one another. More specifically, he highlights the necessity of balancing public rules and private aspirations, charitable concern for the common good and prudential love of self, group obligations and solitary affinities, the fallen city and the amoral garden, secular reason and sacred hope, etc. Elaborating Rousseau's stance 'at the crossroads of Augustinian pessimism and Enlightenment optimism,' Cladis is able to identify the 'ineluctable tension' between various political and personal goods, without simply dissolving all commitment into one or the other. With Public Vision, Private Lives, Cladis takes his place among the leading contemporary theorists of democracy and its ongoing relation to religious sense and sensibility."—Timothy P. Jackson, author of The Priority of Love: Christian Charity and Social Justice

"Though Mark Cladis is a careful and sympathetic reader of Rousseau's writings, his book is not a conventional work of Rousseau scholarship. In fact, there is nothing conventional about it at all. Cladis likens it to a walking tour with Rousseau, a famous walker, at his side, not as his 'guide' but as his conversation partner. The conversation gives rise to a highly original, deepgoing reflection on private satisfactions and public challenges—and the painful, unavoidable conflicts between them. It takes some surprising turns in order to survey the present human condition from fresh angles of vision. Cladis is a perceptive observer of contemporary life, and its critic, but it is the life he shares, and he writes of it with love."—Stephen Crites, Professor of Philosophy and Hedding Professor of Moral Science, Wesleyan University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195125542
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/27/2003
  • Pages: 320
  • Lexile: 1320L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Table of Contents

Preparing for the Journey: An Introduction 3
I From the Garden to the City: The Tragic Passage
1 Nature's Garden 35
2 Revisiting the Garden's Solitaires 44
3 From the Garden to the Blessed Country: The Precarious Passage 52
4 The Rush to Slavery 64
5 The City: Life in the Ousted Condition 79
6 Overcoming Moral Evil: Rousseau at the Crossroads 100
II Paths to Redemption
7 Reforming the City: The Extreme Public Path 125
8 Evading the City: The Private Path 154
9 The Mountain Village: The Path to Family, Work, Community, and Love 172
10 Reconciling Citizen and Solitaire: Religious Dimensions of the Middle Way 187
11 Residual Conflict: Democracy and Ineluctable Friction 214
Conclusion: A Way Forward: Rousseau and 21st-Century Democracy 229
Notes 249
Works Cited 279
Index 285
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