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Family Politics: The Idea of Marriage in Modern Political Thought Paperback – April 9, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Indispensable. While engaging the deepest and most vexing contemporary moral and political issues, Yenor avoids polemics, presenting opposing arguments in the best possible light while developing a distinctive position that is immediately relevant to vital contemporary debates."―Ralph C. Hancock, Professor of Political Science, Brigham Young University, and President of the John Adams Center for the Study of Faith, Philosophy and Public Affairs

"... an important contribution to the recovery of the family's meaning. [Yenor] argues convincingly that the framework provided by modern political thought does not provide sufficient means for our doing so."―Perspectives on Political Science

"Wonderful! This is an amazing achievement, blending sociological expertise, theological savvy, and profound spiritual sensitivities."―Richard J. Mouw, President and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Scott Yenor's book...tackles an incredibly ambitious task in its aim to understand marriage in political thought over the last several centuries."―Alison Lefkovitz, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Humanities and Social Sciences Online

"If an author is to be credited for wading into hotly contested waters with interpretations and arguments meant to invigorate an entirely new conversation about a perennial and perennially controversial topic, then Scott Yenor deserves a great deal of credit indeed."―Micah Watson, American Review of Politics, Union University

"[Yenor] covers a wide range of the most important modern philosophic, political, social scientific, and religious works on the family. Few treatments of the foundational problems of the family are this thorough or deep.... Family Politics provides a good starting point for all those who seek to grapple with the problem of the modern family."―Claremont Review of Books

"Family Politics is the pursuit of political philosophy at its best. Enthusiastically recommended not only to scholars but to all who care about the fate of the family in the modern world."―Carson Holloway, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska, and author of The Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity

From the Inside Flap

From Locke to John Paul II, a compelling history of family in political philosophy

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 385 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (April 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602584796
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602584792
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Family Politics guides us on a journey through the generations of modern political thought in relation to the institutions of the family, from the beginning of family to our present understanding, exposing how the dissolution of the foundations of the family in modern thought will essentially lead to the end of the family. Professor Yenor explains the beginning of marriage, which was the joining together of two individuals in nature, and provides a brief explanation of the evolution of the family through time before arriving at the core of this text, marriage in modern political thought. Yenor systematically describes the approaches of modern thinkers such as Hegel, Marx, and Beauvoir to marriage and family and describes how each philosopher has attempted to overcome nature and break down the unequal institutions within marriage, with the goal of either making the family stronger, or dissolving the family altogether.

Beginning with Locke and ending with John Paul II, Yenor describes not only how each thinker approaches marriage and family, but also how their approaches have led us to the present. More importantly, we are provided with an analysis of each thinker, as well as what philosophies should be applied to marriage and family if we wish to maintain such institutions. The goal of any who wish to maintain and strengthen the family is established in a simple, yet elegant manner, and is applied to the present with the hope of displaying that the dissolution of the family need not occur.

Whether one is simply looking for a better understanding of the relation of political thought to the family, looking for a better understanding of the philosophies of several modern political thinkers, or looking to unify marriage and family to make both stronger, Family Politics will deliver!
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Format: Hardcover
Professor Yenor's Family Politics is an excellent look at the various ways modern philosophy has understood the role and purpose of marriage and family life. Beginning with Locke as the "inventor" of the modern nuclear family, the author shows how Locke's anti-paternalist political project is inextricably linked to his treatment of marriage in contractual terms. In addition, Professor Yenor lays bare the ways in which Locke's view on nature and "nature's givens" are the key to understanding the Lockean paradigm from which all other modern developments draw.

After giving an account of the impact of Rousseau's historical "state of nature" on the family, Professor Yenor proceeds to analyze Hegel's contributions. If Rousseau's proto-historicism crushed the Lockean hopes of grounding marriage in a nature that was fixed, Hegel's full-blown historicism is properly seen as an attempt to re-plant marriage as an integral part of ethical life within the rational state. The historical narrative aspect of the book continues in this way - building each thinker on the previous - with chapters on the French sociologists and early positivism, J.S. Mill, Marx, Freud, and John Paul II, among others.

Yet the book offers much more than simply a topical "history of philosophy." The doctrines of each thinker are examined on their own terms so the reader can see clearly for what reasons a philosopher took a certain position. I offer one brief example: In the chapter on Feminism, Professor Yenor shows how Beauvoir's commitment to "Man... as a being who is not fixed" and as "a historical idea" is central to her belief that freedom is the ability to overcome nature for the sake of taking on "freely chosen projects" (pg 176-7).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are times when a small measure of censure engenders the greatest acknowledgement of praise. Such is the case with Scott Yenor's book, Family Politics. Put simply, Yenor has done the heavy lifting for those of us who desire a better understanding of modern political thought. One may say that, perhaps, he has refined too much for the reader. In his tome, Yenor expertly traces modern political thought as it pertains to the family and marriage from John Locke to John Paul II. Each thinker is presented is such a way as to provide readers a lens by which to understand the topic. Specifically, Yenor presents the philosopher's views on family so thoroughly that readers may feel the urge to relegate some of the ideas to the wayside because they seem antiquated or arcane. In a society where divorce is rampant, do people still care whether the great thinkers rationalized legal separation? Further, the closest Yenor gets to examining the personal lives of modern philosophers occurs midway through the book when introducing Bertrand Russell, who was quite a cad in the marital department. Resisting the mistake of simply correlating Bertrand's personal and social life to the logician's ideas, Yenor keeps his powder dry and stays on topic. For today's readers, pureness of thought and adherence to an objective are rarely experienced.

Yenor's resistance to include the muddy details reminds us all of the continuum society faces between the temporal and the transcendent. Without the clarity and lucidity of Yenor's distillation, it would be all too easy to explain away every important thought without ever really considering that which is truly illuminating. The dualism between body and spirit is a weighty issue in contemporary society.
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