National Affairs: Fall 2019 Issue
“Liberal Practice v. Liberal Theory,” Daniel E. Burns
“These attacks and these defenses [of liberalism] share a common error. Both accept liberal theory’s false claim to be the authoritative interpreter of liberal practice. The critics of liberalism are right to see liberal theory as fatally flawed: It cannot explain the workings of any real human society. But precisely because it is so flawed, liberal theory also cannot explain the weaknesses of our own liberal societies.
If we are to have a productive conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary liberal politics, a crucial first step will be learning to talk about liberal practice without relying on liberal theory.”
Daniel E. Burns is an Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Dallas, where he teaches political philosophy and the principles of American politics. He was the recipient of the Haggerty Teaching Excellence Award in 2016 and the Donald J. White Teaching Excellence Award, Boston College in 2011. He has published articles on Alfarabi, Augustine, and the Strauss-Kojève debate. He is currently on leave from the University of Dallas, serving as a congressional staffer.
Professor Burns is a JMC fellow.
“Liberalism and Nationalism,” Heather Pangle
“The juxtaposition of these authors brings several important questions into focus: Is an overbearing, paternalistic posture endemic to liberal democracies? What is the connection between a liberal domestic order and a liberal international order? Can liberalism defend individual rights without promoting excessive individualism? And can the individualism of liberalism be reconciled with the human need for group identity, a need recognized by nationalism?
To find a way out of our current morass, we need to acknowledge liberalism’s universalizing tendencies without despairing of integrating it with and balancing it against political particularism. Defending liberalism requires that we appreciate the virtue of nationalism.”
Heather Pangle received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston College in 2018, with specializations in political theory and American politics. She has taught courses in political theory at Boston College, Middlebury College, and Carleton College. During the 2018-2019 academic year she was a visiting scholar in the government department at Harvard University. Her research interests include 18th and 19th century French and British political philosophy, American political thought, liberalism, and empire. She has written and presented on topics such as voting, popular sovereignty, and liberalism in the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville and J.S. Mill. Currently she is at work on a book manuscript on the foreign policy of Mill and Tocqueville.
Dr. Pangle is a JMC fellow.
“The Moralistic Style in American Politics,” Greg Weiner
In his essay, Greg Weiner seeks to distinguish the “moralistic politics” of Woodrow Wilson from the morally informed statesmanship of Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Reagan:
“A morally informed statesman will not hesitate to call evil by its name but will use that label economically and resist its application to ordinary problems. Indeed, unlike the Progressive movement’s aspiration to “scientific legislation,” a morally oriented statesman will oppose the temptation to believe that all political problems have obviously “right” answers that can be ascertained by technical means. Moral judgment requires prudence, which — far from being merely calculative — is a cardinal virtue.”
Greg Weiner is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is the author of Madison’s Metronome: The Constitution, Majority Rule and the Tempo of American Politics and American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Monynihan (University Press of Kansas). He received his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and his Ph.D. from Georgetown University.
Greg Weiner is a JMC faculty partner.
National Affairs is a quarterly journal of essays about domestic policy, political economy, society, culture, and political thought. It aims to help Americans think more clearly about public life and rise more ably to the challenge of self-government.
The journal makes its home at the American Enterprise Institute, and draws upon an array of authors from a range of backgrounds and points of view. Contributors include academics, journalists, policy experts, and political practitioners. Each issue features lively yet serious essays on the range of domestic issues: from economics and health care to education and welfare; from the legal debates of the day to enduring dilemmas of society and culture. National Affairs aims to devote special attention to the deeper theoretical questions of American self-government—seeking to cut through the conventional wisdom, make sense of complex issues, offer concrete proposals, and illuminate the ideas that move American politics.
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