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Beyond Political Liberalism

Beyond Political Liberalism

Toward a Post-Secular Ethics of Public Life

Troy Dostert

“In this fresh critique of Rawls’s political liberalism, Dostert offers a bold and stimulating account of the political potential of religion that actually enhances the prospects of a genuinely democratic public discourse. Drawing lessons from the civil rights movement to the Jubilee 2000 effort, Beyond Political Liberalism presents a profoundly hopeful challenge to the ways of thinking about liberalism and religion that dominate both political science and religious studies today. Setting aside worn diatribes and tattered dichotomies, Beyond Political Liberalism constructs a promising vision of religion’s role in liberal society that will be of interest to anyone concerned about the future of contemporary western culture.” —Daniel M. Bell, Jr., Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary

In Beyond Political Liberalism: Toward a Post-Secular Ethics of Public Life, Troy Dostert offers a critical examination of political liberalism, the approach to liberal political theory advanced most forcefully in the later work of John Rawls. Political liberalism’s defenders claim that an “overlapping consensus” of shared values holds out the strongest prospects for regulating democratic politics in light of our moral diversity. Dostert contends, however, that the attempt to establish such a consensus in fact works to restrict and control the presence of religious and other moral perspectives that can ennoble and invigorate public life.

Dostert argues that there is a steep price to be paid for this conception of politics, for what results is a political vision characterized by a profound distrust and fear of citizens’ comprehensive convictions—the animating source of many citizens’ political activity. He suggests that a “post-secular” ethics is a more appropriate response to moral diversity than restricting and managing the presence of religion and other moral perspectives in public life. From this perspective we are best served not by looking for epistemic norms of public discourse, as political liberalism counsels, but by encouraging dialogic practices such as forbearance, discipline, creativity, and sincerity. Such practices allow us to negotiate our moral disagreements in a spirit of mutuality, while also remaining open to discovering new formulations of worthwhile political ideals. By drawing on the religious witness of the civil rights movement and the work of theologian John Howard Yoder, Dostert elucidates these core dialogic practices and illustrates their value through a consideration of the contemporary debates surrounding international debt relief and abortion.

Challenging the secular presuppositions of contemporary liberal political theory, Beyond Political Liberalism will appeal to scholars in political philosophy and contemporary theology. It will also interest religious communities and parishes dedicated to political activity.

“This is a fine book. It is clearly written, accessible to a broad audience, and of special relevance now, both in academia and in the larger political and intellectual culture.” —Eldon Eisenach, University of Tulsa

ISBN: 978-0-268-02600-4
272 pages
Publication Year: 2006

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Troy Dostert is an instructor of history at Cranbrook-Kingswood Upper School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

“Dostert does an excellent job presenting the position of political liberalism with a sympathetic eye, and he is insightful in pointing out its inconsistencies and dangers. One cannot commend political practices and values without recourse to moral values. And these should be expressed in their purity as much as possible. Dostert is surely right about this.” —_Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies_

“Dostert engages a central question in contemporary political theory, namely how should we ‘conceive of political life in light of the challenges posed by moral diversity?’ His concern throughout is with political liberalism’s response to pluralism, a response he characterized as an effort to ‘manage’ political discourse in order to avoid a fractured body politic.” — Theological Studies

“This is a very thoughtful and engaging book that addresses one of the greatest challenges confronting proponents of political liberalism, and, indeed, all those who seek to identify the means by which to ensure that the diversity of beliefs and practices that characterize life in contemporary polities are equally and meaningfully respected and properly utilized. It is certainly a useful addition to the existing scholarship, and one deserving of widespread engagement.” — Philosophy in Review

“Dostert’s purpose in Beyond Political Liberalism is to cast doubt upon the attractiveness of the political liberal approach. Dostert’s exposition of political liberalism and the idea of public reason are succinct and accurate, and much of his critique, especially of Rawlsian norms of public reason and their likely effects in a pluralistic society, hits its mark. He offers thoughtful, detailed analysis of the civil rights movement and its relation to the public political sphere, and he has many sensible things to state about the deeply controversial issues of education and abortion.” — International Journal of Public Theology

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P03444

Political Philosophy and the Republican Future

Reconsidering Cicero

Gregory Bruce Smith

P03373

Freedom from Reality

The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty

D. C. Schindler

Beyond Political Liberalism

Toward a Post-Secular Ethics of Public Life

Troy Dostert

 Beyond Political Liberalism: Toward a Post-Secular Ethics of Public Life
Paper Edition

“In this fresh critique of Rawls’s political liberalism, Dostert offers a bold and stimulating account of the political potential of religion that actually enhances the prospects of a genuinely democratic public discourse. Drawing lessons from the civil rights movement to the Jubilee 2000 effort, Beyond Political Liberalism presents a profoundly hopeful challenge to the ways of thinking about liberalism and religion that dominate both political science and religious studies today. Setting aside worn diatribes and tattered dichotomies, Beyond Political Liberalism constructs a promising vision of religion’s role in liberal society that will be of interest to anyone concerned about the future of contemporary western culture.” —Daniel M. Bell, Jr., Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary

In Beyond Political Liberalism: Toward a Post-Secular Ethics of Public Life, Troy Dostert offers a critical examination of political liberalism, the approach to liberal political theory advanced most forcefully in the later work of John Rawls. Political liberalism’s defenders claim that an “overlapping consensus” of shared values holds out the strongest prospects for regulating democratic politics in light of our moral diversity. Dostert contends, however, that the attempt to establish such a consensus in fact works to restrict and control the presence of religious and other moral perspectives that can ennoble and invigorate public life.

Dostert argues that there is a steep price to be paid for this conception of politics, for what results is a political vision characterized by a profound distrust and fear of citizens’ comprehensive convictions—the animating source of many citizens’ political activity. He suggests that a “post-secular” ethics is a more appropriate response to moral diversity than restricting and managing the presence of religion and other moral perspectives in public life. From this perspective we are best served not by looking for epistemic norms of public discourse, as political liberalism counsels, but by encouraging dialogic practices such as forbearance, discipline, creativity, and sincerity. Such practices allow us to negotiate our moral disagreements in a spirit of mutuality, while also remaining open to discovering new formulations of worthwhile political ideals. By drawing on the religious witness of the civil rights movement and the work of theologian John Howard Yoder, Dostert elucidates these core dialogic practices and illustrates their value through a consideration of the contemporary debates surrounding international debt relief and abortion.

Challenging the secular presuppositions of contemporary liberal political theory, Beyond Political Liberalism will appeal to scholars in political philosophy and contemporary theology. It will also interest religious communities and parishes dedicated to political activity.

“This is a fine book. It is clearly written, accessible to a broad audience, and of special relevance now, both in academia and in the larger political and intellectual culture.” —Eldon Eisenach, University of Tulsa

ISBN: 978-0-268-02600-4

272 pages

“Dostert does an excellent job presenting the position of political liberalism with a sympathetic eye, and he is insightful in pointing out its inconsistencies and dangers. One cannot commend political practices and values without recourse to moral values. And these should be expressed in their purity as much as possible. Dostert is surely right about this.” —_Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies_

“Dostert engages a central question in contemporary political theory, namely how should we ‘conceive of political life in light of the challenges posed by moral diversity?’ His concern throughout is with political liberalism’s response to pluralism, a response he characterized as an effort to ‘manage’ political discourse in order to avoid a fractured body politic.” — Theological Studies

“This is a very thoughtful and engaging book that addresses one of the greatest challenges confronting proponents of political liberalism, and, indeed, all those who seek to identify the means by which to ensure that the diversity of beliefs and practices that characterize life in contemporary polities are equally and meaningfully respected and properly utilized. It is certainly a useful addition to the existing scholarship, and one deserving of widespread engagement.” — Philosophy in Review

“Dostert’s purpose in Beyond Political Liberalism is to cast doubt upon the attractiveness of the political liberal approach. Dostert’s exposition of political liberalism and the idea of public reason are succinct and accurate, and much of his critique, especially of Rawlsian norms of public reason and their likely effects in a pluralistic society, hits its mark. He offers thoughtful, detailed analysis of the civil rights movement and its relation to the public political sphere, and he has many sensible things to state about the deeply controversial issues of education and abortion.” — International Journal of Public Theology