Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013)

Jean Bethke Elshtain -- Christian ethicist, political philosopher and public intellectual -- died on August 11th, 2013. I was acquainted with her work chiefly in connection with readings of the ethical debate over "just war" and Iraq, and prior to that, her numerous contributions to First Things (although she could by no means be confined to the "neocon" label given the diversity of her work, as evidenced by the numerous reflections on her passing).

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was received into the Catholic Church in her last years.

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Jean Bethke Elshtain served as the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, Divinity School, The University of Chicago, with appointments in Political Science and the Committee on International Relations.

She was a member of the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Scholars Council of the Library of Congress, and the Board of the National Endowment for Democracy. In 2008 she was appointed to the President's Council on Bioethics by President George W. Bush.*

Among her published works are Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social and Political Thought (1993); Meditations on Modern Political Thought; Women and War; Democracy on Trial (a New York Times' notable book for 1995); Real Politics: At the Center of Everyday Life; Augustine and the Limits of Politics; Who are We? Critical Reflections, Hopeful Possibilities (recipient of the Theologos Award for Best Academic Book 2000 by the Association of Theological Booksellers); Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (honored by the Society of Midland Authors in 2002); Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World (named one of the best nonfiction books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly); and Sovereignty: God, State, and Self (her Gifford Lectures, published 2008).

A prolific writer, Elshtain authored more than six hundred essays to various journals (including First Things, Commonweal and The New Republic).

Observance of her passing

Further Reflections


* In June 2009, President Barack Obama's administration informed members of the Council that their services were no longer needed. Through a spokesperson, Obama made clear that he intended to replace the committee with a body that "offers practical policy options" rather than philosophical guidance.
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