A Vindication of Politics: On the Common Good and Human Flourishing
January 01, 2019
In 2019, University of Kansas Press will publish A Vindication of Politics: On the Common Good and Human Flourishing, in the American Political Thought series, by Matthew D. Wright. Wright is associate professor of government in the Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University, La Mirada, California.
From the publisher’s description of A Vindication of Politics:
Is politics strictly a means to an end—something that serves only the interests of individuals and the various associations of civil society such as families and charities? Or is a society’s political common good an end in itself, an essential component of full human flourishing? Responding to recent influential arguments for the instrumentality of the political common good, Matthew D. Wright’s A Vindication of Politics addresses a lacuna in natural law political theory by foregrounding the significance of political culture. Rather than an activity defined by law and government, politics emerges in this account as a cultural enterprise that connects generations and ennobles our common life.
The instrumentalist argument, in Wright’s view, does not give a plausible account of, among other things, the value of patriotism—of the way Americans revere the Founders, for instance, or love the Declaration of Independence, or idolize Abraham Lincoln. Such political affections cannot be explained by an instrumental common good. Loyalty to one’s country is not like a commitment to a telephone company. As nasty as politics can be, we hope for more from it than the quid pro quo of a business transaction. To arrive at an adequate theoretical account of why that is, Wright brings historical theory from Aristotle to Burke into conversation with contemporary theorists from John Finnis to Amy Gutmann. In A Vindication of Politics he develops a case for the intrinsic value of politics in a way that underwrites a healthy patriotism—and strongly suggests that the political common good is a critical part of what it means to be fully human.
The book offers new insight into the nature of the political common good and human sociability as well as their importance for making sense of the fundamental questions of American constitutional identity, principles, and aspirations.
Update: Enjoy this interview with Wright for the blog of the University of Kansas Press.