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Incorrectly Political

Incorrectly Political

Augustine and Thomas More

Peter Iver Kaufman

“Peter Iver Kaufman is admirably and ideally qualified to undertake this project of reading More on politics in the light of Augustine on politics. In vigorous, well-paced prose, he tackles an important and original subject.” —Marcia L. Colish, Frederick B. Artz Professor of History, emerita, Oberlin College

”Incorrectly Political will attract readers not only because it is written with the author’s characteristic flair and liveliness, but also because of his established capacity to bridge centuries of Western thought and history. Written at the dawn of the new century, this book acquires deep resonance from the events unfolding around the world, circumstances to which Augustine’s and More’s complex thoughts on political possibility still speak. If ever a study of such hoary figures from the Christian past deserved the label ‘timely,’ it is surely this one.” —Kevin Madigan, Harvard University Divinity School

“Those of us who think that Christian intellectuals belong in politics will be healthily chastened by this examination of two intellectuals, masters of writing and rhetoric, who had abundant experience with political life but found that it is limited in its possibilities for good and full of temptations to flattery, manipulation, and power plays. Kaufman guides us, with constantly new insights and fresh turns of phrase, through the complexities of ‘actually existing’ political life. And he keeps asking, without giving a simple answer, how intellectual and political life might connect with each other in the face of these constant challenges.” —Eugene TeSelle, Oberlin Alumni Professor of Church History and Theology, emeritus, Vanderbilt Divinity School

Peter Iver Kaufman explains how and why we have failed to appreciate Augustine’s and More’s profound political pessimism and thereby reintroduces readers to two of the Christian tradition’s most enigmatic yet influential figures. Each knew that government was useful—yet always deceitful. And each wrote a classic widely read to this day, Augustine’s City of God and More’s Utopia, as well as abundant correspondence and polemical tracts to explain why government on earth might be used, though never meaningfully improved.

ISBN: 978-0-268-03314-9
288 pages
Publication Year: 2007

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Peter Iver Kaufman is professor of history and religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of Thinking of the Laity in Late Tudor England (University of Notre Dame Press, 2004).

“Kaufman analyzes and reflects on the life and writings in political context of two Christian thinkers from very different epochs in order to determine not so much their systematic political philosophies as their attitudes toward political involvement and the betterment of society. . . . This is an intriguing book in which the author risks writing comparatively about figures from two very different times, revealing mastery of sources and secondary literature in both, and a willingness to make broad judgments. Like good books generally, it can rearrange a reader’s perceptions.” — Church History

“This is an important book at a time of expansion of state power in the ‘war against terrorism’ and the emphasis on the role of religion in American political life. This is truly a superb scholarly work and highly recommended for anyone interested in the issue of faith and politics.” — Catholic Library World

“Peter Iver Kaufman writes of More as a politician in the light of St. Augustine. This paperback shows that More shared St. Augustine’s black streak of pessimism, a stripe to be found from Calvinism to William Steig’s cartoon of a man cowering in a box with the caption ‘People are no damn good.’ ” —_Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance_

“_Incorrectly Political_ is a well-researched and frequently insightful analysis of two paralleled classics, the City of God by Augustine of Hippo and Utopia by Thomas Moore. These dissimilar volumes are united under Kaufman’s investigation of their respective expressions of Christian optimism vs. pessimism concerning political action as a means to an authentically good end in this world. The journey through this unique interpretation of two brilliant pilgrims is surely worth the effort.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“Kaufman . . . pairs these seemingly disparate personalities and careers and concludes, as the title frankly suggests, that the two entertained serious and delimiting doubts about both participation in political affairs and the amount of possible good that politics might ever accomplish.” — Christian Scholar’s Review

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Incorrectly Political

Augustine and Thomas More

Peter Iver Kaufman

 Incorrectly Political: Augustine and Thomas More
Paper Edition

“Peter Iver Kaufman is admirably and ideally qualified to undertake this project of reading More on politics in the light of Augustine on politics. In vigorous, well-paced prose, he tackles an important and original subject.” —Marcia L. Colish, Frederick B. Artz Professor of History, emerita, Oberlin College

”Incorrectly Political will attract readers not only because it is written with the author’s characteristic flair and liveliness, but also because of his established capacity to bridge centuries of Western thought and history. Written at the dawn of the new century, this book acquires deep resonance from the events unfolding around the world, circumstances to which Augustine’s and More’s complex thoughts on political possibility still speak. If ever a study of such hoary figures from the Christian past deserved the label ‘timely,’ it is surely this one.” —Kevin Madigan, Harvard University Divinity School

“Those of us who think that Christian intellectuals belong in politics will be healthily chastened by this examination of two intellectuals, masters of writing and rhetoric, who had abundant experience with political life but found that it is limited in its possibilities for good and full of temptations to flattery, manipulation, and power plays. Kaufman guides us, with constantly new insights and fresh turns of phrase, through the complexities of ‘actually existing’ political life. And he keeps asking, without giving a simple answer, how intellectual and political life might connect with each other in the face of these constant challenges.” —Eugene TeSelle, Oberlin Alumni Professor of Church History and Theology, emeritus, Vanderbilt Divinity School

Peter Iver Kaufman explains how and why we have failed to appreciate Augustine’s and More’s profound political pessimism and thereby reintroduces readers to two of the Christian tradition’s most enigmatic yet influential figures. Each knew that government was useful—yet always deceitful. And each wrote a classic widely read to this day, Augustine’s City of God and More’s Utopia, as well as abundant correspondence and polemical tracts to explain why government on earth might be used, though never meaningfully improved.

ISBN: 978-0-268-03314-9

288 pages

“Kaufman analyzes and reflects on the life and writings in political context of two Christian thinkers from very different epochs in order to determine not so much their systematic political philosophies as their attitudes toward political involvement and the betterment of society. . . . This is an intriguing book in which the author risks writing comparatively about figures from two very different times, revealing mastery of sources and secondary literature in both, and a willingness to make broad judgments. Like good books generally, it can rearrange a reader’s perceptions.” — Church History

“This is an important book at a time of expansion of state power in the ‘war against terrorism’ and the emphasis on the role of religion in American political life. This is truly a superb scholarly work and highly recommended for anyone interested in the issue of faith and politics.” — Catholic Library World

“Peter Iver Kaufman writes of More as a politician in the light of St. Augustine. This paperback shows that More shared St. Augustine’s black streak of pessimism, a stripe to be found from Calvinism to William Steig’s cartoon of a man cowering in a box with the caption ‘People are no damn good.’ ” —_Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance_

“_Incorrectly Political_ is a well-researched and frequently insightful analysis of two paralleled classics, the City of God by Augustine of Hippo and Utopia by Thomas Moore. These dissimilar volumes are united under Kaufman’s investigation of their respective expressions of Christian optimism vs. pessimism concerning political action as a means to an authentically good end in this world. The journey through this unique interpretation of two brilliant pilgrims is surely worth the effort.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“Kaufman . . . pairs these seemingly disparate personalities and careers and concludes, as the title frankly suggests, that the two entertained serious and delimiting doubts about both participation in political affairs and the amount of possible good that politics might ever accomplish.” — Christian Scholar’s Review