Testing the national covenant : fears and appetites in American politics /
William F. May.
Washington, DC : Georgetown University Press, c2011.
xviii, 174 p. ; 23 cm.
158901765X (pbk. : alk. paper), 9781589017658 (pbk. : alk. paper)
More Details
Washington, DC : Georgetown University Press, c2011.
158901765X (pbk. : alk. paper)
9781589017658 (pbk. : alk. paper)
contents note
Containing runaway fears in America foreign policy -- The overreach of free market ideology : business and government -- Free market ideology : bearing on other centers of power -- Curbing runaway appetites in domestic policy -- The national covenant : we the people -- The national covenant : forming a more perfect union -- Keeping covenant with immigrants and undocumented workers.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 155-163) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-04-01:
Defining himself in the first chapter as a "Christian theologian," May (Univ. of Virginia) draws on religious terminology to describe and to castigate "primordial religious passions" that shape the outlook and the rhetoric of conservative political movements. He contends that the radical Right is motivated by a "religious dualism" that expresses itself in runaway fear, imperial overreach, an unceasing quest for oil, and the like. Linking the fears and appetites of the radical Right to ancient heresies, May portrays views comparable to those once found in Manichaean dualism or even in dualist scriptures "older than the Book of Genesis." A more sober section describes two ways of understanding American identity. That identity can be either "contractual" or "convenantal." The contractual idea emphasizes freely made choices, but May links it to a darker Hobbesian background that fails to counter runaway fear or appetite. The covenantal idea draws from religion and dreams of a future dedicated to building a "more perfect union." If grounded in the "scriptures of Israel," that future will be one of inner and outer covenants in which immigrants and undocumented workers receive fairer treatment. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduate collections. D. J. Maletz University of Oklahoma
Review Quotes
"Wise, clear, profound, and eloquent, William F. May's new book should be read by anyone who cares about America. He puts on display our runaway fears and desires. He traces the ways those anxieties and appetites have distorted our international policy, our domestic policy, and our economic life. It is a prophetic indictment of our culture, but it is no mere jeremiad. It is a hopeful call for a course correction, for a turning (or a returning) to the tradition of covenant. The concluding chapters elegantly contrast covenant and contract and point the way to a better common life in America." -- Allen Verhey , professor of theological ethics, Duke Divinity School
"This book is the capstone of the life's work of William F. May as an eminent Christian ethicist and public intellectual. With stylistic elegance, theological depth, perceptive analysis, and persuasive criticism, May employs the concept of covenant to address the domestic and international policies that the United States should follow today." -- Charles Curran , Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, Southern Methodist University
"This unique book brings to American politics, economics, and public life -- both contemporary and historical -- an imaginative theological understanding. May's distinctive approach throws light in both directions -- on the religious categories, which are enriched by their application to topics like American foreign policy, the free market, and immigration; and on public issues, which are understood in a more profound way by the application of religious ideas. A valuable book." -- William Lee Miller , The Miller Center of Public Affairs and author of Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, April 2012
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Bowker Data Service Summary
May draws on America's religious and political history and examines two concepts at play in the founding of the contry - contractual and convenantal. He contends that the biblical idea of a convenant offers a more promising way than the language of contract to contain our runaway anxieties and appetites.
Main Description
Since the end of World War II, runaway fears of Soviet imperialism, global terrorism, and anarchy have tended to drive American foreign policy toward an imperial agenda. At the same time, uncurbed appetites have wasted the environment and driven the country's market economy into the ditch. How can we best sustain our identity as a people and resist the distortions of our current anxieties and appetites? Ethicist William F. May draws on America's religious and political history and examines two concepts at play in the founding of the country -- contractual and covenantal. He contends that the biblical idea of a covenant offers a more promising way than the language of contract, grounded in self-interest alone, to contain our runaway anxieties and appetites. A covenantal sensibility affirms, "We the people (not simply, We, the individuals, or We, the interest groups) of the United States." It presupposes a history of mutual giving and receiving and of bearing with one another that undergirds all the traffic in buying and selling, arguing and negotiating, that obtain in the rough terrain of politics. May closes with an account of the covenantal agenda ahead, and concludes with the vexing issue of immigrants and undocumented workers that has singularly tested the covenant of this immigrant nation.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Containing Runaway Fears in American Foreign Policyp. 1
The Overreach of the Free Market Ideology: Business and Governmentp. 27
Free Market Ideology: Bearing on Other Centers of Powerp. 49
Curbing Runway Appetites in American Domestic Policy: Oil and Other Carbonsp. 65
We The People: A Contract or a Covenant?p. 81
Forming a more Perfect Union: The Taskp. 99
Keeping Covenant with Immigrants and Undocumented workersp. 121
Notesp. 139
Bibliographyp. 155
Indexp. 165
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