Rancor reigns in American politics. Is it possible these days to regard politics as an arena that enriches and ennobles?
Matthew D. Wright responds with a resounding yes in his 2019 book, A Vindication of Politics: On the Common Good and Human Flourishing
(UP of Kansas, 2019).
Wright takes issue with the instrumentalist view of politics and walks readers through key debates in the field of natural law and the ideas of titans in it, primarily John Finnis and Alasdair MacIntyre but discussing along the way some of their peers such as Robert P. George and Mark Murphy.
In the section of the book on the relationship of government and the state to family matters, Wright takes on the notions of Amy Gutmann and Robin West, which allow for a level of interference in the family sphere greater than conservative thinkers could ever conceive of countenancing.
Not only are living thinkers addressed but so are such figures as Aristotle, Edmund Burke and Abraham Lincoln.
Wright shows us how to conduct ourselves on the basis of civic friendship, another major theme in his book.
With Wright’s help, we learn what terms such as “the common good” and “human flourishing” mean in both everyday life and in the field of philosophy. He clarifies what terms such as “political culture,” “political association” and “political community” mean and enables us to grasp what it means to “think institutionally” and what the “moral imagination” is.
Wright is hearteningly hopeful and shows that being part of a political community is easier than we think, is character building and is more vital than ever. His book is indeed a vindication of a part of human society, politics, that we cannot escape and which encompasses everything from the workings of the individual family to what love, justice and virtue look like through the lens of politics.
Give a listen.
Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher.