JACKSON, Tenn. – Aug. 15, 2012 – A new book by Union University’s Hunter Baker provides an introductory look at political thought for political novices.
In “Political Thought: A Student’s Guide,” Baker, dean of instruction and associate professor of political science at Union, explains how political differences often spring from alternate understandings of how society should operate.
“What I tried to do is to write a book about politics that contains no discussion of Republicans or Democrats, and really not a lot of discussion of left or right,” Baker said. “I’m trying to get people past all the stuff that predetermines their response.” Baker opens the book by comparing his upbringing with his wife’s as a model for understanding politics. Baker grew up in a home where he had much freedom – lots of time to himself with a limited amount of parental supervision, because he didn’t abuse his freedoms.
“If people are virtuous, if people govern themselves, then they don’t need to be governed heavily by some external authority,” Baker said. “This is kind of the ordered liberty model, and I think that’s really kind of the American model.”
His wife’s childhood was different. She grew up in a home with a cohesive, Christian family that spent lots of time together, with parents exercising a greater amount of supervision over things such as music and books. Her family was organized around achieving a particular type of excellence, Baker said, that wasn’t optional.
Such an arrangement is a model of “civic idealism,” which is expressed politically by those who want to take an entire community and move it toward a particular type of excellence.
“Really, in our politics, that’s where the tension is,” Baker said. “It’s between this ordered liberty model and the civic idealism model. You can see how the idealism model could be superior, as long as it’s the right thing that you’re all striving toward. But what if you’re not in agreement with that thing that you’re all striving toward? That’s where the liberty model starts to prove itself.”
In addition to family examples, Baker also uses lessons from the television show “Lost” to discuss some enduring political themes, such as order, justice, liberty and equality. He concludes with a section on the Christian contribution to politics.
Baker said the book was written to be understood by all readers, regardless of their familiarity with or background in politics.
“It is my hope that the discussion will prove stimulating and that many who read this book will decide to make further and more detailed study in the area of political philosophy,” Baker writes in the book’s preface. “Regardless, serious consideration of the issues raised here will lead to greater capacity for evaluating political proposals and the claims that go with them. I knew I was on the right track with this book when my wife, who has long had very little interest in politics and is very scientifically minded, read the manuscript and subsequently told me she suddenly began to see the things I had described in the text everywhere in the news.”
The 130-page book is part of the “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition” series edited by Union University President David S. Dockery. It is available for purchase at such retailers as LifeWay Christian Stores and Amazon.com.