Sovereign Equality and Moral Disagreement By Brad R. Roth (Oxford University Press, 320 pp., $70) Sovereignty is back. Our debates about the global economic crisis keep returning to the problem of sovereign debt and the need for sovereign guarantees to reassure the markets. We keep hoping that somewhere, sometime, in the downward spiral of de-leveraging and disillusion there will be an authority—a sovereign—to take charge and put an end to our anxiety. This longing for an authority, after years of market follies, runs very deep. We want to know that someone is in control.
An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age By Jürgen Habermas (Polity Press, 87 pp., $14.95) The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere By Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West Edited by Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (Columbia University Press, 137 pp., $19.50) On October 14, 2001, the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas stepped up to the lectern at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt to deliver a short address called “Faith and Knowledge.” The occasion was his acceptance speech of the Peace Prize, a yearly honor that the German Book
A few years ago, when I was still teaching at the University of Chicago, I had my first Chinese graduate students, a couple of earnest Beijingers who had come to the Committee on Social Thought hoping to bump into the ghost of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish political philosopher who established his career at the university. Given the mute deference they were accustomed to giving their professors, it was hard to make out just what these young men were looking for, in Chicago or Strauss. They attended courses and worked diligently, but otherwise kept to themselves.
My thanks go to Damon Linker for his concise thoughts on why I was correct to write about Carl Schmitt, the Nazi political philosopher, in my book The Future of Liberalism. I too have wondered why conservative sensibilities are so easily offended on this point. Reading John Yoo is like overhearing Schmitt translated into English. Pride of place for taking offense goes to Jonah Goldberg. I hope Jonah decides to read my book rather than rely on reviews.
Over at NRO's The Corner, Jonah "Liberals Were Fascists Before They Were Socialists" Goldberg joins with the conservative movement's house comedian Mark Steyn in ridiculing a book he hasn't read -- Alan Wolfe's The Future of Liberalism: Mark - James Piereson reviews Wolfe's book in the latest issue of Commentary (which, readers may like to know, has a fantastic essay by none other than Mark Steyn in it). I can't get behind the firewall, even though I'm a print subscriber, but Piereson's review is sober and contemptuous at the same time.
Why do so many people quote Carl Schmitt? After all, he was an out-and-out Nazi. Even someone as scrupulous as Christopher Caldwell quotes Schmitt in the weekend FT. And it isn't as if Schmitt's statement is so wise. Here it is: "Sovereign is he who decides whether there is a state of emergency." I think it's pretty obvious and banal.If you are at all interested in Schmitt you might read Bernard-Henri Levy's devastating treatment of him in BHL's new book, Left in Dark Times.
CATHOLIC MATTERS: CONFUSION, CONTROVERSY, AND THE SPLENDOR OF TRUTH By Richard John Neuhaus (Basic Books, 272 pp., $25) Liberal modernity exasperates traditional religion. It fosters a pluralism that denies any one faith the power to organize the whole of social life. It teaches that public authorities must submit to the consent of those over whom they aspire to rule, thereby undermining the legitimacy of all forms of absolutism. It employs the systematic skepticism of the scientific method to settle important questions of public policy.
Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida Edited by Giovanna Borradori (University of Chicago Press, 208 pp., $25) I. Was philosophy prepared for the events of September 11? To judge by all available evidence, the answer must be a resounding “no.” For some time now, contemporary philosophy has viewed “worldliness”—the perfectly natural idea that thought should take a healthy and constructive interest in worldly affairs—as a source of contamination. Analytic philosophy’s triumph in the decades following World War II meant that henceforth philosophy would
Ornamentalism by David Cannadine Oxford University Press, 240 pp., $25) When Hitler wished to relax after a hard day at the office, he liked to watch films in his private screening room. Nazi propaganda movies were not his favorite entertainment; they felt too much like work. Hitler liked swashbuckling Hollywood films, and one picture in particular: Lives of a Bengal Lancer, starring Gary Cooper and C.