An eloquent, controversial argument that says, for the first time in their long history, Jews are free to live in a Jewish state--or lead secure and productive lives outside it Since the beginnings of Zionism in the twentieth century, many Jewish thinkers have considered it close to heresy to validate life in the Diaspora. Jews in Europe and America faced "a life of pointless struggle and futile suffering, of ambivalence, confusion, and eternal impotence," as one early Zionist philosopher wrote, echoing a widespread and vehement disdain for Jews living outside Israel. This thinking, in a more understated but still pernicious form, continues to the present: the Holocaust tried to kill all of us, many Jews believe, and only statehood offers safety. But what if the Diaspora is a blessing in disguise? In At Home in Exile, renowned scholar and public intellectual Alan Wolfe, writing for the first time about his Jewish heritage, makes an impassioned, eloquent, and controversial argument that Jews should take pride in their Diasporic tradition. It is true that Jews have experienced more than their fair share of discrimination and destruction in exile, and there can be no doubt that anti-Semitism persists throughout the world and often rears its ugly head. Yet for the first time in history, Wolfe shows, it is possible for Jews to lead vibrant, successful, and, above all else, secure lives in states in which they are a minority. Drawing on centuries of Jewish thinking and writing, from Maimonides to Philip Roth, David Ben Gurion to Hannah Arendt, Wolfe makes a compelling case that life in the Diaspora can be good for the Jews no matter where they live, Israel very much included--as well as for the non-Jews with whom they live, Israel once again included. Not only can the Diaspora offer Jews the opportunity to reach a deep appreciation of pluralism and a commitment to fighting prejudice, but in an era of rising inequalities and global instability, the whole world can benefit from Jews' passion for justice and human dignity. Wolfe moves beyond the usual polemical arguments and celebrates a universalistic Judaism that is desperately needed if Israel is to survive. Turning our attention away from the Jewish state, where half of world Jewry lives, toward the pluralistic and vibrant places the other half have made their home, At Home in Exile is an inspiring call for a Judaism that isn't defensive and insecure but is instead open and inquiring.
The past few decades have brought a shift in the nature of American democracy--an alarming shift that threatens such liberal democratic values as respect for pluralism, acceptance of the separation of powers, and recognition of the rights of opposition parties. In this insightful book, political scientist Alan Wolfe identifies the current political conditions that endanger the quality of our democracy. He describes how politics has changed, and he calls for a democracy protection movement designed to preserve our political traditions not unlike the environmental protection movement's efforts to safeguard the natural world. Voters who know little about issues, leaders who bend rules with little fear of reprisal, and political parties that are losing the ability to mobilize citizens have all contributed to a worrisome new politics of democracy, Wolfe argues. He offers a brilliant analysis of how religion and morality have replaced political and economic self-interest as guiding principles, and how a dangerous populism promotes a radical form of elitism. Without laying blame on one party or ideology and without claiming that matters will improve with one party or the other in office, Wolfe instead suggests that Americans need to understand the danger their own indifference poses and take political matters more seriously.
One of America's leading scholars offers a compelling exploration and defense of liberalism: what it actually is, why it is relevant today, and how it can help society chart a forward course.
A new collection of essays from one of the most courageous and honest thinkers writing today "The question of the public intellectual is very much in the air again," writes Alan Wolfe. As one of our eminent social commentators, Wolfe should know; he's been writing, with fierce intellectual independence, about American public and private life since the 1960s. In this new collection of essays spanning seven years of contributions to The New Republic, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and other prominent publications, Wolfe displays the courage necessary to write honestly--yet free of ideology, cant, and piety--about the things Americans take very seriously. Wolfe thinks big; indeed, the essays in An Intellectual in Public confront many of the most controversial issues of our time: country, God, race, sex, material consumption, and left and right. Beginning and ending the book are original essays describing the public intellectual's role, and how Wolfe believes that role ought to be filled. An Intellectual in Public is not only a demonstration of Wolfe's pointed analytical skills but a testament to his belief that "severely ideological thinking" is inappropriate for some of our most difficult problems, and that "neither the right nor the left can speak for all of America. " Alan Wolfe is the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life and also Professor of Political Science at Boston College. He is the author of over a dozen books, including One Nation After All: What Middle Class Americans Really Think About: God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, the Right, the Left and Each Other.
A timely, eye-opening examination of political evil, a concept widely misunderstood and desperately in need of clarification in our ever more chaotic world.In an age of genocide, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and torture, evil threatens us in ways radically different from tsunamis and financial panics. Nature unleashes its wrath and people rush to help the victims. Evil shows its face and we are paralyzed over how to respond.It was not always this way. During the twentieth century, thinkers as diverse as Hannah Arendt, Reinhold Niebuhr, Arthur Koestler, and George Orwell made evil central to everything they wrote. Acclaimed political scientist Alan Wolfe argues that in an age of partisan blame-assigning, therapeutic excuse-making, and theological question-dodging, we need to get serious about the problem of evil once again. While there will always be something incomprehensible about evil, we are very much capable of understanding and combating the use of evil means to obtain political ends. Diplomats and politicians with their own agendas ignore this side of evil to grim and often tragic effect. These movers and shakers apply the concept of general evil, seemingly inconquerable, inviting only violence and despair to situations that are local in nature. Looking at examples of political evil around the globe--in the Middle East, Darfur, the Balkans, and at home in the West--Wolfe shows us how seemingly small distinctions can make an immense difference in international response. And he makes clear that much-needed change can be initiated with a shift in how we talk and think about political evil.International shame in the years following the Rwandan genocide--after the world failed to recognize it as such--led to a large-scale campaign against genocide in Darfur. Except, Wolfe argues, in Darfur it wasn't genocide: it was civil war. We see--surprisingly, and powerfully--that labeling the conflict incorrectly had disastrous effects, even extending the violence as soldiers waited for seemingly inevitable Western intervention. When, on the other hand, Western leaders compared Serbian president and infamous ethnic cleanser Slobodan Milosevic to Hitler, they failed to recognize that exterminating people and seeking to take over their land are both evil but they are evil in different ways; misguided Western intervention in the Balkans eventually brought ethnic cleansing to an end, but only by allowing it to run its course.At once impassioned and pragmatic, Political Evil sheds essential light on the creation of policy and on a concrete path to a more practicable and just future.From the Hardcover edition.
The United States remains a deeply religious country and religion plays an inextricably critical role in American politics. Controversy over issues such as abortion is fueled by opposition in the Catholic Church and among conservative Protestants, candidates for the presidency are questioned about their religious beliefs, and the separation of church and state remains hotly contested. While the examination of religion's influence in politics has long been neglected, in the last decade the subject has finally garnered the attention it deserves. InReligion and Democracy in the United States, prominent scholars consider the ways Americans understand the relationship between their religious beliefs and the political arena. This collection, a work of the Task Force on Religion and American Democracy of the American Political Science Association, thoughtfully explores the effects of religion on democracy and contemporary partisan politics. Topics include how religious diversity affects American democracy, how religion is implicated in America's partisan battles, and how religion affects ideas about race, ethnicity, and gender. Surveying what we currently know about religion and American politics, the essays introduce and delve into the range of current issues for both specialists and nonspecialists. In addition to the editors, the contributors are Allison Calhoun-Brown, Rosa DeLauro, Bette Novit Evans, James Gibson, John Green, Frederick Harris, Amaney Jamal, Geoffrey Layman, David Leal, David Leege, Nancy Rosenblum, Kenneth Wald, and Clyde Wilcox.
Has America, in its quest for goodness, sacrificed its sense of greatness? In this sharp-witted, historically informed book, veteran political observer Alan Wolfe argues that most Americans show greater concern with saving the country's soul than with making the nation great. Wolfe castigates both conservatives and liberals for opting for small-mindedness over greatness. Liberals, who at their best insisted on policies of national solidarity, have convinced themselves that small is beautiful, prefer multiculturalism to one nation, and are mistrustful of executive political power. Conservatives, who once embraced strong, active central government and an ideal of national citizenship, now support huge tax cuts that undermine America's future ability to undertake any ambitious, long-term project at home or abroad. No great society, in Wolfe's view, has ever been built on the cheap. Wolfe notes that neither the conservatives' call for small-scale faith-based initiatives nor the recent embrace on the left of a grassroots "civil society" can provide health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans or ensure national security in an age of terrorism. To find better solutions, Wolfe looks back at specific moments in our national experience, when, in the face of sharp resistance, aspirations for the idea of national greatness shaped American history. He demonstrates how a bold and ambitious political agenda, championed at various times by Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, Abraham Lincoln, and the two Roosevelts, steered the country toward periods of national strength and unity. Steeped in a colorful, panoramic reading of history, Return to Greatness offers a fresh take on American national identity and purpose. A call to action for a renewed embrace of the ideal of an activist federal government and bold policy agendas, it is sure to become a centerpiece of national debate.
School choice has lately risen to the top of the list of potential solutions to America's educational problems, particularly for the poor and the most disadvantaged members of society. Indeed, in the last few years several states have held referendums on the use of vouchers in private and parochial schools, and more recently, the Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of a scholarship program that uses vouchers issued to parents. While there has been much debate over the empirical and methodological aspects of school choice policies, discussions related to the effects such policies may have on the nation's moral economy and civil society have been few and far between. School Choice, a collection of essays by leading philosophers, historians, legal scholars, and theologians, redresses this situation by addressing the moral and normative side of school choice.The twelve essays, commissioned for a conference on school choice that took place at Boston College in 2001, are organized into four sections that consider the relationship of school choice to equality, moral pluralism, institutional ecology, and constitutionality. Each section consists of three essays followed by a critical response. The contributors are Patrick McKinley Brennan, Charles L. Glenn, Amy Gutmann, David Hollenbach, S. J., Meira Levinson, Sanford Levinson, Stephen Macedo, John T. McGreevy, Martha Minow, Richard J. Mouw, Joseph O'Keefe, S. J., Michael J. Perry, Nancy L. Rosenblum, Rosemary C. Salomone, Joseph P. Viteritti, Paul J. Weithman, and Alan Wolfe.
School choice has lately risen to the top of the list of potential solutions to America's educational problems, particularly for the poor and the most disadvantaged members of society. Indeed, in the last few years several states have held referendums on the use of vouchers in private and parochial schools, and more recently, the Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of a scholarship program that uses vouchers issued to parents. While there has been much debate over the empirical and methodological aspects of school choice policies, discussions related to the effects such policies may have on the nation's moral economy and civil society have been few and far between. School Choice, a collection of essays by leading philosophers, historians, legal scholars, and theologians, redresses this situation by addressing the moral and normative side of school choice. The twelve essays, commissioned for a conference on school choice that took place at Boston College in 2001, are organized into four sections that consider the relationship of school choice to equality, moral pluralism, institutional ecology, and constitutionality. Each section consists of three essays followed by a critical response. The contributors are Patrick McKinley Brennan, Charles L. Glenn, Amy Gutmann, David Hollenbach, S. J., Meira Levinson, Sanford Levinson, Stephen Macedo, John T. McGreevy, Martha Minow, Richard J. Mouw, Joseph O'Keefe, S. J., Michael J. Perry, Nancy L. Rosenblum, Rosemary C. Salomone, Joseph P. Viteritti, Paul J. Weithman, and Alan Wolfe.
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