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Statecraft as Soulcraft Paperback – May 17, 1984

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (May 17, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671427342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671427344
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By AB on September 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
You listened to the President emphasize at the RNC that Government should be a tool, a facilitator to help people better themselves. He didn't mention eliminating goverment. George Will wrote this book about 10 years ago, yet his message can be so pertinent to the modern conservative. There was a lot of discussion recently about how in 2008, different types of so-defined conservatives will be competing for the Republican mantle to carry in the upcoming decades. It raises the question: since the role of the conservative today is no longer to be anti-communist (since the end of the Cold War), nor to eliminate government, nor to even battle deficits, what is the conservative's ideology today? George Will already had the answers with his great foresight. The book really helps a self-defined conservative re-think why we identify with a conservative and what conservatism really is. He articulates concepts that can be difficult to otherwise sort through. Mr. Will in this book makes numerous references to philosophers/writers whom he apparently has been well-guided by such as Edmund Burke, Disraeli, Aristotle, etc.

George Will in this book challenges the notion that conservatism should be defined strictly around an economic principle (capitalism). He gives conservatism greater purpose than just facilitating economic fulfillment through limited government intervention in the market. He resoundingly sends his message in this book that the conservative's mindset shouldn't be to detest government but to improve it and structure it so it is better able to empower and encourage citizenry to uphold its moral responsibilities as well as its economic ones.

I would recommend this book to be included in curricula for graduate-level public-administration programs. In courses that put an emphasis on Hobbes, Machiavelli, Locke and Jeffersonian themes, this book would be an useful refutal to compliment such readings.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eric Mayforth on March 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
What is government for? That is the issue that political columnist George Will takes up in this treatise.

Will argues against the libertarian notion that government is merely an instrument of coercion. He asserts that politics is about much more than economic issues, and decries the recent trend of political discussions becoming more and more about economic concerns and less and less about concern for values--Will believes that government should be concerned about the inner lives of its citizens.

The book discusses how the Founding Fathers sought to limit tyranny--by separation of powers and checks and balances. They also sought to ensure that society would have a "multiplicity of factions" that would produce continually shifting governing coalitions, so that no one faction would permanently exercise tyrannical power over all other factions.

The author discusses the difference between big government, which we have today, and strong government. He makes a conservative case for the fundamentals of the welfare state, stating that such a welfare state must support rather than disintegrate families. Will does not say just how large such a welfare state should be, but a "statecraft as soulcraft" government that the author calls for, one that is concerned about the inner life of its citizens, must make CERTAIN that the nation does not end up with the type of overbloated welfare state (such as the one the U.S. enacted in the mid-1960s) that strongly encourages the citizenry to engage in the very type of irresponsible behavior that is at fierce loggerheads with the "statecraft as soulcraft" model.

Most present-day American conservatives will not agree with all of the conclusions that Will reaches, but this book is a worthwhile read in that it encourages conservatives to think through just what the proper role of government is.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 17, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In this volume, George Will examines the historical roots of conservatism as a way of governing. Drawing on examples from the direct ancestors of American Founding Fathers (the English), Will provides a compelling case for policies that are conservative in intent, as well as in effect. He also shows what strategy should be properly regarded as conservative.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Although George Will can be an extremist in some of his views, he has a good mind and is gifted as an author and orator. This is nowhere more evident than in this collection of 20th century essays, where he focuses on "statecraft as soulcraft." Thomas Jefferson understood that an educated citizenry was a Nation's best defense, and the Vietnamese have clearly demonstrated that a nation with a strong strategic culture can defeat the United States when it practices the American way of war (lots of technology, little public support for the war). Today we are beginning to understand that the moral aspects of national character are 3-5 times more important than the physical and economic and technical aspects. Michele Borba's new book, Building Moral Intelligence, together with George Will's dated but still powerfully relevant book, comprise the urgently needed elementary education for all adults who would be responsibile citizens--or leaders of citizens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Samuel J. Sharp on January 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Statecraft as Soulcraft" is George Will's statement of proper conservative governance. Will argues that conservatives, rather than deriding or seeking to enfeeble government, should endeavor to strengthen government's role in shaping and protecting the values that underlie our republican form of government. Will, writing in 1983, states that, "it is time for a conservative counterattack, in law and culture and elsewhere, in the name of those forms of excellence which, as the Founders said, a free society especially presupposes." (p. 90). It is wrong according to Will to pretend that the state does not express value judgments when it acts to pass or enforce laws. Given that all acts of government express value judgments, conservatives should enunciate their values and act to inculcate those to the citizenry.

Will admits that his vision may appear to share traits with totalitarianism, but he argues that whereas totalitarianism seeks to draw power to the state, his vision tasks private, local, voluntary associations with the work of soulcraft. "Conservative soulcraft has as its aim the perpetuation of free government by nurturing people so they can be comfortable and competent in society. . . . It is to maintain the basis of government that is itself governed by the best in a 2,500 year legacy of thought and action-social arrangements known to be right because of what is known about human nature." (p. 145). This Burkean deference to experience renders the state's work easy; it need not create new values, only to legislate in accord with, and to encourage those values which we know to be necessary to a functioning free society.

Will's book is a direct challenge to conservatives. While not altogether persuasive, it is worthy of a read and reflection.
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