The Review of Politics

Published by Cambridge University Press

Online ISSN: 1748-6858


Print ISSN: 0034-6705


What is the difference between a "person" and a "human being" within the law?
  • Article

February 1992


63 Reads

James T McHugh
The difference between legal terms such as “person” and “human being” represents more than a question of standing or mere semantics. Within liberal democratic societies, such as the United States and Canada, such distinctions may indicate substantive differences regarding fundamental concepts such as citizenship, membership in society, and the scope and essential nature of rights and liberties. In particular, judicial decisions regarding abortion have relied upon such distinctions in order to articulate some of the fundamental issues upon which such controversies are based.

Liberal Democracy and the Right to Religious Freedom

November 2009


54 Reads

The Roman Catholic Church was famously late to embrace the right to religious freedom. Some have plausibly argued that when the Second Vatican Council, in 1965, overwhelmingly adopted the Declaration on Religious Freedom - known by the first two words of its official, Latin version: Dignitatis Humanae - the Church betrayed one of its most traditional and established theological teachings. Did the Church, at Vatican II, capitulate to, or at least compromise with, "liberalism?" The right to religious freedom, according to international law, rests in part on respect for the "inherent dignity" of every human being. Thus there is a prima facie link between the liberal-democratic justification and the Church's 1965 justification. But as I argue in this essay, the appeal to human dignity is not an exclusive preserve of modern liberal democracy. Indeed, we can imagine a government that refuses to affirm the right to religious freedom because it wishes to save souls, and this precisely out of respect for human dignity of every human being. Such a view was proclaimed by the the pre-Vatican II Church. Thus the appeal to human dignity is not evidence of a fundamental shift by the Church. What then does account for the Church's undeniable U-turn - its undeniable change of direction? Respect for human dignity by itself cannot provide the fundamental justification for the right to religious freedom. Another ingredient is needed: distrust, born of long historical experience, of government competence to adjudicate contested questions of religious truth. The Church in Dignitatis Humanae finally came to accept this lesson of history - a lesson available to believers of various faiths, including Catholics, as well as to nonbelievers.

Alexis de Tocqueville and the Two-Founding Thesis

March 2011


142 Reads

Alexis de Tocqueville's account of the formation of the American regime identifies two constitutive moments: the Puritan colonization and the Revolution and the Constitution (1775–1789). Contrary to historians of the day, Tocqueville gave as much credit to the Puritans as to the Founders. Yet far from being a pure history, Tocqueville's narrative also had the purpose of promoting a new political foundation that replaced the philosophical doctrine of natural rights with an account based on “Customary History.” Tocqueville's approach was intended to further a great theoretical project inaugurated by Montesquieu that offered an alternative model to the mainstream Enlightenment position for how political philosophy should enter into and influence political life. This article analyzes the two-founding thesis, explores the underlying theoretical project on foundations of Tocqueville and Montesquieu, and presents and assesses the debate on the merits of attempting to change the political foundation of the American regime.

Castle or the tipi: rationalization or irrationality in the American economy
  • Article
  • Full-text available

October 1972


2 Reads

During a 1957 Notre Dame conference entitled "What America stands for", Karl De Schweinitz, Jr. examined the "contemporary problems of the American economy'. Journal Article

Plato And The Politics Of Aristotle's Poetics

September 1992


12 Reads

This article challenges the view that Aristotle's Poetics provides a defense against Plato's assault on poetry. I argue that Aristotle's discussion of poetry is at least as critical of the poetic depiction of the city and the gods as is the Platonic account. In the Poetics Aristotle does break with Plato in order to establish poetry's independence from philosophy. Aristotle's account of poetry as an independent activity should not, however, be read as a defense of poetry against Plato's subordination of poetry to philosophy. Instead, it is argued that Aristotle establishes poetry's independence from philosophy as a corrective to Plato's resort to poetry, thereby establishing that philosophy is completely autonomous from poetry.

I Capitoli: Machiavelli's New Theogony

March 2003


138 Reads

The article considers Machiavelli's terza rima poems on Ingratitude, Ambition, Fortune and Occasion, generally called I Capitoli, in the context of Renaissance hermeticism, cabbala, erotic magic, and astrology. It argues that these poems, taken together and read as a whole, reveal Machiavelli's playful yet subversive cosmology that ousts the old gods by instituting a new theogony. At the same time, I Capitoli, addressed and dedicated to his friends, discloses Machiavelli's own ambitions and desires, delineating the subtle link between Niccolò the poet and Niccolò the prophet and benefactor. Yes Yes

What Is Comparative Political Theory?

September 2008


1,024 Reads

This paper examines what is involved in using comparative methods within political theory and whether there should be such a sub-field as "comparative political theory." It argues that "political theory" consists of multiple kinds of activities which are either primarily "scholarly" or "engaged." It is easy to imagine how scholarly forms of political theory can, and have been, comparative. The paper critiques, however, existing calls for the creation of "comparative political theory" (CPT) sub-field focused on the study of "non-Western" texts. CPT needs to explain why it is not merely "expanding the canon" to include non-Western texts and why a certain non-Western text is "alien," thus justifying the moniker "comparative." I argue, systematically though 10 discrete theses, that the strongest warrant for an "engaged" comparative political theory is the first-order evaluation of the implication of the contestations of norms, values and principles between distinct and coherent doctrines of thought.

The Compassion of Zarathustra: Nietzsche on Sympathy and Strength

February 2006


382 Reads

Contemporary theorists critical of the current vogue for compassion might like to turn to Friedrich Nietzsche as an obvious ally in their opposition to the sentiment. Yet this essay argues that Nietzsche's critique of compassion is not entirely critical, and that the endorsement of one's sympathetic feelings is actually a natural outgrowth of Nietzsche's immoralist ethics. Nietzsche understands the tendency to share in the suffering of their inferiors as a distinctive vulnerability of the spiritually strong and healthy. Their compassion, however, is an essential element of the imaginative creativity that Nietzsche holds to be the goal of human existence. Although shared suffering may prove debilitating for some, great individuals must come to affirm their compassion as necessary in achieving accurate knowledge of the human condition. Government Accepted Manuscript

The Limits of Constructivism: Can Rawls Condemn Female Genital Mutilation?

May 2009


44 Reads

The strategy for coping with value pluralism that Rawls has proposed is to permit political decisions, at least with respect to basic rights, to depend only on those goods that can be inferred from the bare requirements of respectful relations between persons. His account offers such a parsimonious conception of the good that it cannot cognize some atrocities. I focus on one extreme human rights case: the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), which, it is well established, violates basic human rights. Doubtless Rawls was appalled by the practice. Yet his theory cannot generate a basis for condemning it. A satisfactory conception of human rights must draw upon some normative source beyond that offered by constructivism.

Dworkin's 'Originalism': The Role of Intentions in Constitutional Interpretation

November 2000


359 Reads

Ronald Dworkin has criticized traditional theories of constitutional original intent by arguing that the constitutional text embodies multiple layers of intention. Abstract principles are among these layers of constitutional intent, and those principles should be the primary focus of a method of constitutional interpretation concerned with fidelity to the Constitution and the intentions of the Founders. This article argues that Dworkin's reconceptualization of originalism is theoretically flawed. It may be possible to construct a normative theory requiring that the judiciary always enforce abstract constitutional principles in accord with current substantive ideals. Such a theory, however, cannot be reconciled with or be required by an originalist interpretive method primarily committed to fidelity to founding intent.

Donoso Cortés as servant of the State /

October 1952


14 Reads

It is as the author of the Ensayo Sobre El Catolicismo, El Liberalismo Y El Socialismo that Juan Donoso Cortés, first Marquis of Valdegamas, is best known. Donoso's reputation as a spokesman of the forces of counter-revolution grew steadily after 1848, and by the time the Ensayo appeared in 1851 he had, so to speak, a readymade audience of both friendly and adverse critics scattered throughout the continent of Europe. But the dramatic clashes of opinion with which the work was received extended its fame beyond the expected limits. For in the Ensayo Donoso not only attacked liberalism and socialism, but, perhaps without meaning to do so, he also offered a challenge to an important segment of Catholic thought and opinion, namely the Catholic liberals. The result was that the conservative publicist who was accustomed to being attacked from the Liberal benches in parliament and by the liberal press in Spain now found his severest critics in a Catholic group which included Bishop Dupanloup of Orléans and whose spokesman was the Abbé Gaduel. Of them Donoso complained to Pius IX that they were “prelates who had turned themselves into journalists.”

Locke's Inverted Quarantine: Panopticism, Discipline, and the Making of the Modern Subject

March 2010


62 Reads

I suggest that Locke's educational paradigm offers the theory of governance the Two Treatises lack. In these pages is the key to Lockean politics: the realization that a self-governing polity requires self-governing citizens, and these citizens, as he suggested in the Essay and explains in the Education, are made rather than found, constructed from the ground up by discipline. Through early and careful practices of education, they are enmeshed in a net of habit and custom that naturalizes the moral commitments they are taught, rendering the process, and the artifice, invisible. Locke entangles his subjects in an architecture of power of which they become the bearers.

George Washington on Religious Liberty

February 2008


38 Reads

Despite the Supreme Court's repeated invocations of America's Founding Fathers for First Amendment religion jurisprudence, George Washington's political thought regarding religious freedom has received almost no scholarly attention. This is unfortunate, for Washington's words and actions speak to contemporary Establishment Clause and Free Exercise issues. Washington, moreover, offers an alternative to Jefferson's and Madison's approach to church-state matters. The scholarly exclusion of Washington thus has led to a narrow view of the Founders' thought on religious liberty. This article sets forth Washington's understanding of the right to religious liberty. It pays particular attention to Washington's disagreement with Madison on the propriety of government support of religion. It also draws attention to the limits Washington placed on an individual's right to religious free exercise by focusing on how Washington dealt with Quaker claims for religious exemptions from military service.Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved. —G. Washington, Letter submitting the proposed constitution to the President of Congress 17 September 1787

For and Against Ownership: William Godwin's Theory of Property

March 2009


113 Reads

© 2009 University of Notre Dame. 12 month embargo by the publisher. Article will be released in April 2010. This article offers an interpretation of British philosopher William Godwin's theory of property ownership, as outlined in his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. Godwin's work can be read as presenting an incoherent account of property rights, which, on the one hand, justifies its existence on seemingly utilitarian grounds while, on the other, impugns its legitimacy on egalitarian grounds. But the contradiction apparent in Godwin's position is actually illusory and can in fact be plausibly interpreted as comprising a coherent two-level understanding of political morality, wherein the right to own private property is best comprehended as a “right to do wrong.”

Metamorphosis or Palingenesis? Political Change in Kant

September 2001


41 Reads

This article looks at Kant's attitude to political change by examining closely the contrast he draws between palingenesis and metamorphosis in his doctrine of right (1797). The article attempts to explain why Kant prefers the use of metamorphosis as an analogy and looks closely at his objections to the use of palingenesis. Here Kant's treatment of palingenesis is compared with the use of the term made by the eighteenth-century Genevan biologist Charles Bonnet. It is suggested that Kant's rejection of rebellion and revolution is connected to his advocacy of gradual, organic change as conveyed in the notion of metamorphosis. This notion is explored according to eighteenth-century and present scientific understandings of the term. The conclusion stresses the merits of Kant's approach to political change, and indicates why it might be superior to the conservative and revolutionary alternatives.

Political philosophy

September 2007


32 Reads

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY - ManentPierre: A World Beyond Politics? A Defense of the Nation-State (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006. Pp. 206. $35.00, hardback.) - Volume 69 Issue 4 - Paul Seaton

Karl Marx as Philosopher Robert C. Tucker: Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1961. Pp. 263. Cloth $5.50, paper $1.75.) (The book was originally announced under the title: The Alienated World of Karl Marx.)

October 1962


11 Reads

Karl Marx as Philosopher - TuckerRobert C.: Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1961. Pp. 263. Cloth $5.50, paper $1.75.) (The book was originally announced under the title: The Alienated World of Karl Marx.) - Volume 24 Issue 4 - N. Lobkowicz

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