REAL POLITICS: At the Center of Everyday Life by Jean Bethke Elshtain

REAL POLITICS: At the Center of Everyday Life

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Collections of articles often lack a unifying theme and consequently make unsatisfying books, but this thought-provoking volume is an exception. Reading a series of loosely connected essays is actually a good way to encounter Elshtain's (Social and Political Ethics/Univ. of Chicago; Democracy on Trial, 1995, etc.) fundamentally idiosyncratic scholarly and personal convictions. The selections are presented in five parts, ostensibly addressing five topics: embracing reality as a whole in political discussions; relating language and political content; reining in feminist extremes on the family and the realities of female existence; rejecting victimization as a basis for feminist politics; and searching for a politics that embraces the middle ground of actual human life. In fact, the groupings are so amorphous and the articles so pointed, however, that the volume is best understood as a selection of individual essays that together convey a sense of Elshtain's soul. At her core she opposes scholarship that substitutes sophistication for content and political activism that places stridency over common sense. She is a politically aware intellectual, sensitive to the dangers of alienating ideas and discourse from the substantive if occasionally banal realities of daily life. This leads her to suggest that families must be preserved despite identifying with a feminist community more concerned with throwing off traditional social institutions than looking to them for groundedness; Elshtain has even labeled those critical of the bonds linking mother and child as ""repressive feminists."" In another example of her independence, she rejects the typical literary depictions of small towns as emotionally and creatively stifling environments. For Elshtain the personal connections definitive of human existence are to be found in the real world of families and towns, not in political and intellectual abstractions, and she is not shy about stating her position. A fascinating study that pulls no punches in support of an original yet moderate political vision.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1997
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ.