America, Aristotle, and the Politics of a Middle Class
Imprint: Baylor University Press
310 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: March 2018
Aristotle’s political imagination capitalizes on the virtues of a middle-class republic. America’s experiment in republican liberty bears striking similarities to Aristotle’s best political regime—especially at the point of the middling class and its public role. Author Leslie Rubin, by holding America up to the mirror of Aristotle, explores these correspondences and their many implications for contemporary political life.
Rubin begins with the Politics, in which Aristotle asserts the best political regime maintains stability by balancing oligarchic and democratic tendencies, and by treating free and relatively equal people as capable of a good life within a law-governed community that practices modest virtues.
The second part of the book focuses upon America, showing how its founding opinion leaders prioritized the virtues of the middle in myriad ways. Rubin uncovers a surprising range of evidence, from moderate property holding by a large majority of the populace to citizen experience of both ruling and being ruled. She singles out the importance of the respect for the middle-class virtues of industriousness, sobriety, frugality, honesty, public spirit, and reasonable compromise. Rubin also highlights the educational institutions that foster the middle class—public education affords literacy, numeracy, and job skills, while civic education provides the history and principles of the nation as well as the rights and duties of all its citizens.
Wise voices from the past, both of ancient Greece and postcolonial America, commend the middle class. The erosion of a middle class and the descent of political debate into polarized hysteria threaten a democratic republic. If the rule of the people is not to fall into demagoguery, then the body politic must remind itself of the requirements—both political and personal—of free, stable, and fair political life.
Introduction: Politics and the Political Animal
Part I: Aristotle’s Republic
Chapter 1. A Practical Republic: Aristotle’s Real-World Politics
Chapter 2. Citizens, Rulers, and the Law: Aristotle on Political Authority
Chapter 3. The Best Regime: Aristotle’s Middle-Class Republic
Part II: The American Founders’ Republic
Chapter 4. "Happy Mediocrity": America’s Middle Class
Chapter 5. Citizen Virtue: "Simple Manners" among the "Laborious and Saving"
Chapter 6. Securing America’s Future: Moral Education in a Middle-Class Republic
Conclusion: For Aristotle and America, Why the Middle Class Matters
By placing Aristotle and American founding thought in dialogue, Leslie Rubin shows that freedom and equality are protected not merely by institutional arrangements such as checks and balances but by a middle class and its way of life. She demonstrates that Aristotle helps us to understand our own political system, and at the same time she gives a defense of American politics, and indeed, of politics more generally. America, Aristotle, and the Politics of a Middle Class is an original and path-breaking work.~Mary Nichols, Professor of Political Science, Baylor University
The relation between classical political thought and practice to the American regime, especially in the founding era, has been a subject of much discussion and debate over the past half century or so. These discussions have not always been satisfactory because they have been conducted among scholars of America whose knowledge of the classical sources is shaky at best. Leslie Rubin's book raises the discussion to a new level because she is a classical scholar with a deep knowledge of the ancients and an equally impressive knowledge of the Americans.~Michael Zuckert, Nancy R. Dreux Professor of Political Science, Notre Dame University
Most people assume that classical political philosophy can’t possibly be relevant to the modern world. Leslie Rubin, however, is wise enough to see, and learned enough to explain for us, Aristotle’s very real importance to understanding the American regime. This book is an excellent resource for students of Aristotle, students of the American founding, and for all those who wish to think more deeply about how America can preserve a stable and just politics based on the flourishing of a decent and moderate middle class.~Carson Holloway, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska at Omaha
A timely contribution to the ongoing discussion on the nature and value of the American founding and the important role the middle class plays in the preservation of a republic.~Choice
America, Aristotle, and the Politics of a Middle Class perfectly blends classical and modern political theory in illuminating the importance of the middle class in both antiquity and modernity. The book is especially relevant now with our eroding middle class and the resultant political polarization and dysfunction that plagues our government. By returning both to the American founders and Aristotle, Rubin provides us a path to see where we, as a country, have been and how far we have strayed. If we want to understand the underlying causes for our current political predicament and how we may be able to emerge out of it, America, Aristotle, and the Politics of a Middle Class is the antidote that we are seeking.~Lee Trepanier, VoegelinView
Leslie Rubin’s final work is a resource for all who are alert to the intellectual and civic crises caused by various extreme or singleminded views of recent centuries. Her detailed and balanced analysis of the moderate spirit of Aristotle’s political science, and of an analogous moderation in America’s founding political thought, is an intellectual achievement. It elevates our conversations in political philosophy, and about constitutional liberal democracy. Her argument also achieves, in practice, the Aristotelian standard she believes best for political science: that scholars also should make a civic contribution, as the minimal duty of grateful citizens.~Paul Carrese, Public Discourse
If Rubin’s book prompts students of American politics to go back and read or reread their Aristotle with fresh eyes, this alone would be a signal accomplishment. She has given us an American founding less modern than we might have thought, and an Aristotle less ancient…In the political science classroom and beyond, Leslie Rubin’s portrait of Aristotelian America and American Aristotelianism is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of our situation.~Matthew J. Franck, Public Discourse
Leslie Rubin’s America, Aristotle, and the Politics of a Middle Class restores Aristotle and the American Founding’s political philosophy of republicanism to a place of honor...Stressing the ‘middling’ citizen character required for republican self-government, she cautions us against expecting human greatness in republican American.~Ken Masugi, Claremont Review of Books