Sovereignty: God, State, and Self

Overview


In this seminal work in the fields of political history and political theory, Jean Bethke Elshtain shows how the powerful notion of sovereignty—complete independence and self-government—has irrevocably sculpted contemporary notions of God, state and self. Elshtain examines the conceptual underpinnings of sovereignty, considering the early modern ideas of God that formed the basis for the modern paradigm of the sovereign state, and making the unprecedented claim that political theories of state sovereignty fuel ...
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Sovereignty: God, State, and Self

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Overview


In this seminal work in the fields of political history and political theory, Jean Bethke Elshtain shows how the powerful notion of sovereignty—complete independence and self-government—has irrevocably sculpted contemporary notions of God, state and self. Elshtain examines the conceptual underpinnings of sovereignty, considering the early modern ideas of God that formed the basis for the modern paradigm of the sovereign state, and making the unprecedented claim that political theories of state sovereignty fuel contemporary understandings of sovereignty of the self—arguing, in other words, that when we understand why we have the politics we have, we will understand what makes humans themselves tick. The implications of Elshtain’s monumental thesis go as far as to suggest that self-sovereignty, which understands the self to be an independent, self-sufficient entity, undermines the bedrock on which human communities are fundamentally sustained. In thoughtful, provocative prose, Elshtain explores the connections between our political and ethical convictions, changing forever the way we understand the notion of sovereignty.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Elshtain (social & political ethics, Univ. of Chicago; Just War Against Terror) deals here with the origins and development of our current concept of political and personal sovereignty, tracing its history from Augustine to Nietzsche and noting the move toward absolute autonomy of the state and the individual. According to Elshtain, even individual sovereignty becomes tyranny without relationships and community. We are created to love and that puts a limit on our sovereignty, she writes; "if we refuse to observe a limit, we are destroyers." Elshtain reexamines the relevant writings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and many others in light of her philosophical analysis. She also applies her insight to postmodernism, radical feminism, and other modern movements, showing in her approach a deep knowledge of her subject matter. An excellent scholarly, philosophical analysis of a difficult concept that Elshtain makes surprisingly accessible to readers outside her field; recommended primarily for academic and large public libraries.
—C. Robert Nixon

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465028566
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,027,490
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Jean Bethke Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at The University of Chicago. She is the author of over four hundred essays in scholarly journals and journals of civic opinion, and some one hundred and seventy five book reviews, and was a contributing editor at The New Republic. Among her books are Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (Basic, 2001), Just War Against Terror (Basic, 2003) and Democracy on Trial (Basic, 1995). She lives in Nashville, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Chapter 1 Sovereign God: From Logos to Will 1

Chapter 2 Sovereign God: Bound or Unbound 29

Chapter 3 Will, Power, and Earthly Dominion 57

Chapter 4 The Sovereign State Unchained 77

Chapter 5 The Binding and Loosing of Sovereign States 91

Chapter 6 Binding, Loosing, and Revolution 119

Chapter 7 Unbinding Revolution, Binding Constitution 137

Chapter 8 The Creation of the Sovereign Self 159

Chapter 9 Self-Sovereignty: Moralism, Nihilism, and Existential Isolation 181

Chapter 10 The Sovereign Self: Dreams of Radical Transcendence 203

Chapter 11 The Less-Than-Sovereign Self and the Human Future 227

Afterword 247

Acknowledgments 249

Notes 251

Index 321

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2008

    I believe, therefore I am.

    Elshtain offers an incredibly intriguing discussion regarding the spheres of political and personal sovereignty. Throughout her text, she draws upon the most significant philosophical, theological, and literary voices from both the past and present. Each voice is drawn upon in an effort to further provide the reader with a fuller understanding of the truly broad nature of sovereignty. Elshtain's discussion of sovereignty could not be more timely in an age when we face in crossroad in human history. I encourage all those who seek to better understand man's formulation of the meaning 'freedom' and 'sovereignty' to explore the wonderful work which Elshtain has achieved.

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