The Jewish Social Contract: An Essay in Political Theology / Edition 1

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Overview

The Jewish Social Contract begins by asking how a traditional Jew can participate politically and socially and in good faith in a modern democratic society, and ends by proposing a broad, inclusive notion of secularity.

David Novak takes issue with the view--held by the late philosopher John Rawls and his followers--that citizens of a liberal state must, in effect, check their religion at the door when discussing politics in a public forum. Novak argues that in a "liberal democratic state, members of faith-based communities--such as tradition-minded Jews and Christians--ought to be able to adhere to the broad political framework wholly in terms of their own religious tradition and convictions, and without setting their religion aside in the public sphere.

Novak shows how social contracts emerged, rooted in biblical notions of covenant, and how they developed in the rabbinic, medieval, and "modern periods. He offers suggestions as to how Jews today can best negotiate the modern social contract while calling upon non-Jewish allies to aid them in the process. The Jewish Social Contract will prove an enlightening and innovative contribution to the ongoing debate about the role of religion in liberal democracies.

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Editorial Reviews

First Things
In his ambitious new book, The Jewish Social Contract, David Novak restores the nexus between theology and politics implicit in covenantalism and social contract. . . . [The book] provides a rationale for how orthodox religious people might accept the legitimacy of the democratic, delimited secular orders in which they live.
" First Things n Mittleman

In his ambitious new book, The Jewish Social Contract, David Novak restores the nexus between theology and politics implicit in covenantalism and social contract. . . . [The book] provides a rationale for how orthodox religious people might accept the legitimacy of the democratic, delimited secular orders in which they live.
From the Publisher

"In his ambitious new book, The Jewish Social Contract, David Novak restores the nexus between theology and politics implicit in covenantalism and social contract. . . . [The book] provides a rationale for how orthodox religious people might accept the legitimacy of the democratic, delimited secular orders in which they live."--Alan Mittleman, First Things
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691122106
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/26/2005
  • Series: New Forum Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David Novak is J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of eleven books, including "Covenantal Rights" (Princeton), which won the 2000 American Academy of Religion Award for best book in constructive religious thought.

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations ix
Preface xi

Chapter One: Formulating the Jewish Social Contract 1
The Democratic Contract 1
The Political Value of the Social Contract 7
A Contract between Minorities 10
Community and Society 12
Claims for Cultural Autonomy 21

Chapter Two: The Covenant 30
Covenant and Social Contract 30
The Noahide Covenant 34
Divine Interest in the Covenant 36
Interhuman Covenants 40
The Covenant between God and Israel 47
Covenants between Jews 53
Covenants between Jews and Gentiles 56
Contracts: Social and Private 59

Chapter Three: The Covenant Reaf .rmed 65
Covenantal Necessity 65
The Voluntary Covenant 70
Covenantal Autonomy 77
Some Social Contracts within Judaism 81

Chapter Four: The Law of the State 91
Political Subordination 91
The Law of the Gentiles 100
Palestine and Babylonia 103
Samuel's Principle 114
Secularity and Secularism 120

Chapter Five: Kingship and Secularity 124
Royal Law 124
Royal Justice 132
Ibn Adret's Halakhic Answer 142
Gerondi's Theological Answer 147
Abravanel's Philosophical Answer 150

Chapter Six: Modern Secularity 157
The Dawn of Modernity 157
Baruch Spinoza: Covenant as Social Contract 158
Moses Mendelssohn: Judaism as a Religious Denomination 164
Religious Pluralism in a Secular State 169
Traditional Judaism Continued in the Secular State 173
Mendelssohn's Problematic Legacy for Judaism 178

Chapter Seven: The Social Contract and Jewish-Christian Relations 188
The New Jewish-Christian Situation 188
Political Theology 195
Beyond Liberalism and Conservatism 201
The Question of Trust 205
Jews, Christians, Atheists, and Secularists 212

Chapter Eight: The Jewish Social Contract in Secular Public Policy 218
Jews, Judaism, and Public Policy 218
Criteria for Jewish Public Policy 223
Jewish Suspicions of General Morality 229
The Unavoidability of General Morality 230
The Political Argument for the Social Contract 235
Jewish Self-Interest and Political Alliances 237

Bibliography 239
Index 251

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