Over the course of last year, I set aside a number of books that I wanted to read because I knew that they would make significant contributions to public conversations, but I knew that they would require some time and effort to read carefully and well.
I’m hoping to read a number of these 10 books over the coming year…
By ERB Editor, C. Christopher Smith
(In alphabetical order by author’s last name…)
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Paperback: Cistercian Publications
This book surveys the full panorama of ten centuries of Christian monastic life. It moves from the deserts of Egypt and the Frankish monasteries of early medieval Europe to the religious ruptures of the eleventh and twelfth centuries and the reforms of the later Middle Ages. Throughout that story the book balances a rich sense of detail with a broader synthetic view. It presents the history of religious life and its orders as a complex braid woven from multiple strands: individual and community, spirit and institution, rule and custom, church and world. The result is a synthesis that places religious life at the center of European history and presents its institutions as key catalysts of Europe’s move toward modernity.
In Commonwealth and Covenant Marcia Pally argues that in order to address current socioeconomic problems, we need not more economic formulas but rather a better understanding of how the world is set up — an ontology of how we and the world work. Without this, good proposals that arise lack political will and go unimplemented.
Pally describes our basic setup as “separability-amid-situatedness” or “distinction-amid-relation.” Though we are all unique individuals, we become our singular selves through our relations and responsibilities to the people and environments around us. Pally argues that our culture’s overemphasis on “separability” — individualism run amok — results in greed, adversarial and deceitful political discourse and chicanery, resource grabbing, broken relationships, and anomie.
Maintaining that separability and situatedness can and must be considered together in public policy, Pally draws on intellectual history, philosophy, and — especially — historic Christian and Jewish theologies of relationality to construct a new framework for addressing present economic and political ills.
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