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Nature and History in American Political Development: A Debate (Alexis de Tocqueville Lectures on American Politics) [Hardcover]

James W. Ceaser , Theda Skocpol , Jack N. Rakove , Nancy L. Rosenblum , Rogers M. Smith


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Book Description

March 31, 2006 0674021584 978-0674021587 First Edition (US) First Printing

In this inaugural volume of the Alexis de Tocqueville Lectures, political scientist James Ceaser traces the way certain ideas, including nature, history, and religion—which he calls foundational ideas—have been understood and used by statesmen and public intellectuals over the course of American history, from the Puritans to the current day. Ceaser treats these ideas not as pure concepts of philosophy or theology, but rather as elements of political discourse that provide the ground or ultimate appeal for other political ideas, such as liberty or equality. At times, they have critically influenced the course of American political development, offering various opportunities and constraints for political leaders. Ceaser traces the histories of these ideas and their relation to other ideas, to practices, and to the fortunes of successive partisan regimes.

Three critical commentators—historian Jack Rakove and political theorists Nancy Rosenblum and Rogers Smith—challenge Ceaser’s arguments in several ways. They suggest that other ideas may be considered foundational, and they prod him to clarify further how foundational ideas work politically. Ceaser responds with vigor, and the result is a spirited debate about large and enduring questions in American politics.



Editorial Reviews

Review

Ceaser's analysis of American history is highly sophisticated and impressive...The discussants, two political scientists and one historian, give the volume balance both politically and intellectually...[An] engaging, deeply thoughtful, and public-spirited volume. (Daniel Walker Howe Claremont Review of Books 2006-09-01)

Review

James Ceaser has uncovered a profoundly vital aspect of American politics known by political leaders for centuries but ignored by the discipline of political science. His lecture on foundational concepts stimulated a vigorous debate on the ways students of politics should understand the role of ideas. The responses by Jack Rakove, Nancy Rosenblum, and Rogers Smith pose tough questions and Ceaser responds to their challenges in a wonderful exchange. Nature and History in American Political Development opens up an arena in the study of American politics that is new and especially important. (Jeffrey K. Tulis, University of Texas at Austin)

Product Details

  • Series: Alexis de Tocqueville Lectures on American Politics
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (March 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674021584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674021587
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,650,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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