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Statecraft as Soulcraft Paperback – May 17, 1984
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About the Author
George F. Will's column appears in more than four hundred newspapers nationwide. His work also appears biweekly in Newsweek. Will is a commentator for ABC News and the author of twelve books in addition to Men at Work. He was educated at Trinity College in Connecticut, Oxford University, and Princeton University. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting book on the duty of elites to promote a sense of public duty and civic culture. We no longer discuss what citizenship means and what it means to be a good citizen. Read morePublished 3 months ago by George Bogdan
George Will is a brilliant man but his big flaw is his tendency to use big words strung together for effect rather than communication. Read morePublished on October 12, 2013 by Larry
George Will again exhibits his keen analytical ability and backs it up historical citations to present a solid case of what we should be demanding from our political leaders.Published on July 1, 2013 by Albert Jablonski
In a way, this book is for those who once believed politics was made in the likeness of Mr Smith goes to Washington. When Washington still had a soul. Read morePublished on January 26, 2013 by Elinor
Hmmm...let's see. George Will; wrong on Iraq, wrong on the economy, wrong on his choice of ties. George reminds me of the Berenshein bears. Read morePublished on October 12, 2009 by daddio
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. Read morePublished on February 28, 2003 by Robert David STEELE Vivas