This series spotlights books which address and assess contemporary issues and social trends by drawing on the resources of the Western intellectual and cultural tradition.
Maura Jane Farrelly, Anti-Catholicism in America - 1620-1860
Using fears of Catholicism as a mechanism through which to explore the contours of Anglo-American understandings of freedom, Farrelly reveals the ironic role that anti-Catholicism played in defining and sustaining some of the core values of American identity, values that continue to animate our religious and political discussions today. Farrelly explains how that bias helped to shape colonial and antebellum cultural understandings of God, the individual, salvation, society, government, law, national identity, and freedom. In so doing, Anti-Catholicism in America, 1620-1860 provides contemporary observers with a framework for understanding what is at stake in the debate over the place of Muslims and other non-Christian groups in American society.
Mark your calendars for Tuesday, February 6 at 4:00pm for a discussion with Prof. Farrelly on the historical insight captured in her book, at our offices on 14 Arrow St., Cambridge MA:
Mark Regnerus, Cheap Sex - The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy
Cheap sex has been made possible by two technologies that have little to do with each other - the Pill and high-quality pornography - and its distribution made more efficient by a third technological innovation, online dating. Together, they drive down the cost of real sex, and in turn slow the development of love, make fidelity more challenging, sexual malleability more common, and have even taken a toll on men's marriageability. Men and women have not fundamentally changed, but their unions have.
Mihir A. Desai, The Wisdom of Finanace
The characterization of finance as deceitful, infamous, and vulgar still rings true today - particularly in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai, in his "last lecture" to the graduating Harvard MBA class of 2015, took up the cause of restoring humanity to finance. This book captures Desai's lucid exploration of the ideas of finance as seen through the unusual prism of the humanities.
João Carlos Espada, The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty - A View From Europe
João Carlos Espada's provocative survey of a group of key Anglo-American and European political thinkers argues that there is a distinctive, Anglo-American tradition of liberty that is one of the core pillars of the Free World. Giving a broad overview of the tradition through summaries of the careers and ideas of fourteen of its key thinkers, neglected despite having been tremendously influential in the tradition of liberty, the author engages with current set ideas about the meaning of 'liberal' and 'conservative' to offer an engaging, intellectual case for liberal democracy.
Jeffrey Hanson, Kierkegaard and the Life of Faith
Soren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling is one of the most widely read works of Continental philosophy and the philosophy of religion. While several commentaries and critical editions exist, Jeffrey Hanson offers as distinctive approach to this crucial text. Hanson gives equal weight and attention to all three of Kierkegaard's "problems", dealing with Fear and Trembling as part of the entire corpus of Kierkegaard's production and putting all parts into relation with each other. Additionally, he offers an analysis of the Abraham story and other biblical texts, giving particular attention to questions of poetics, language, and philosophy, especially as each relates of the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. Presented in a thoughtful, well-informed, and fresh manner, Hanson's claims are original and edifying. This new reading of Kierkegaard will stimulate fruitful dialogue on well-traveled philosophical ground.
James PIereson, Shattered Consensus
James Piereson describes the inevitable political turmoil that will overtake the United States in the next decade as a consequence of economic stagnation, the unsustainable growth of government, and the exhaustion of postwar arrangements that formerly underpinned American prosperity and power. The challenges of public debt, the retirement of the “baby boomer” generation, and slow economic growth have reached a point where they require profound changes in the role of government in American life. At the same time, the widening gulf between the two political parties and the entrenched power of interest groups will make it difficult to negotiate the changes needed to renew the system.
Shattered Consensus places this impending upheaval in historical context, reminding readers that Americans have faced and overcome similar trials in the past, in relatively brief but intense periods of political conflict. While others claim that the United States is in decline, Piereson argues that Americans will rise to the challenge of forming a new governing coalition that can guide the nation on a path of dynamism and prosperity.
R.R. Reno, Resurrecting the Ideal of a Christian society
In Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, theologian and editor of First Things, R. R. Reno argues that America needs a renewal of Christian ideals—ideals that promote self-sacrifice, responsibility, and solidarity rather than perpetuating the selfish and culturally destructive flaws of liberal democracy and free-market economy. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s 1940 essay “The Idea of a Christian Society,” Reno shows how Christianity encourages an emphasis on a sense of the transcendent, limited government for the sake of genuine freedom, and a deep grounding in moral integrity that can strengthen communities and transform America into a truly great nation.