Flattery and the History of Political Thought
That Glib and Oily Art
Cambridge University Press 2018
New Books in CommunicationsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in LanguageNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 29, 2018 Lilly Goren
Daniel Kapust‘s book, Flattery and the History of Political Thought: That Glib and Oily Art (Cambridge University Press, 2018), is a rich and fascinating exploration of political thought through the complex lens of the question or concept of flattery. The book traces this complicated concept through both many of the “expected” writers and thinkers in the western political theory canon while also integrating some unexpected thinkers. Kapust positions many of these thinkers in encounters with each other—exploring the kinds of conversations these thinkers might have with each other. The encounters between authors and texts tease out the differing understandings of flattery and the way that it can be used in political contexts as well as within the affective webs in which humans live and engage with one another on a personal level. Thus, Kapust situates flattery within politics, provides the reader with different definitions of flattery, and also teases out the differences between flattery and friendship. The book begins by posing the question as to why flattery is a worrisome political phenomenon and concludes with a brief exploration of the contemporary political dynamic in the United States on the eve of the 2016 election. But between these bookends, Kapust takes the reader through an extended exploration of works by Cicero, Smith, Machiavelli, the Federalist, and others who indeed wrestle with the idea of flattery in the public sphere and also within the context of political friendship and personal relationships.