The Dissent of the Governed : A Meditation on Law, Religion, and Loyalty

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9780674212664: The Dissent of the Governed : A Meditation on Law, Religion, and Loyalty

Between loyalty and disobedience; between recognition of the law's authority and realization that the law is not always right: In America, this conflict is historic, with results as glorious as the mass protests of the civil rights movement and as inglorious as the armed violence of the militia movement. In an impassioned defense of dissent, Stephen L. Carter argues for the dialogue that negotiates this conflict and keeps democracy alive. His book portrays an America dying from a refusal to engage in such a dialogue, a polity where everybody speaks, but nobody listens.

The Dissent of the Governed is an eloquent diagnosis of what ails the American body politic--the unwillingness of people in power to hear disagreement unless forced to--and a prescription for a new process of response. Carter examines the divided American political character on dissent, with special reference to religion, identifying it in unexpected places, with an eye toward amending it before it destroys our democracy.

At the heart of this work is a rereading of the Declaration of Independence that puts dissent, not consent, at the center of the question of the legitimacy of democratic government. Carter warns that our liberal constitutional ethos--the tendency to assume that the nation must everywhere be morally the same--pressures citizens to be other than themselves when being themselves would lead to disobedience. This tendency, he argues, is particularly hard on religious citizens, whose notion of community may be quite different from that of the sovereign majority of citizens. His book makes a powerful case for the autonomy of communities--especially but not exclusively religious--into which democratic citizens organize themselves as a condition for dissent, dialogue, and independence. With reference to a number of cases, Carter shows how disobedience is sometimes necessary to the heartbeat of our democracy--and how the distinction between challenging accepted norms and challenging the sovereign itself, a distinction crucial to the Declaration of Independence, must be kept alive if Americans are to progress and prosper as a nation.

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In this "meditation on law, religion, and morality," originally delivered as part of Harvard's annual Massey Lectures series, which has attracted speakers from Richard Rorty to Toni Morrison, Stephen L. Carter dwells on themes from his larger books, including The Culture of Disbelief, with particular attention to allegiance (and its opposite, disallegiance) to religion and state.

Working from the text of the Declaration of Independence, Carter proposes that the true measure of a democracy can be found in its treatment of those citizens who dissent with its stated values. This has been especially important in the consideration of those who disagree with the local or federal government on moral grounds rooted in religious belief; in this century alone, that has been a factor in issues ranging from pacifist activism against World War I, the nonviolent civil rights movement of the 1960s, and the continuing debate over abortion rights. It is also relevant today with regard to such issues as the provision of government funds for private (usually religious) schools. Carter reminds us that the purpose of democracy is not to impose one set of values on a diverse citizenry, but to create a space for dialogue among people of varying value systems, each of which is accorded respect and dignity.

From the Back Cover:

In The Dissent of the Governed...Carter eloquently rejects the claim that argument from religious morality has no place in public debate...[He] not only defends the legitimacy of religious argument but provides an impressive example of how a believer may engage in civil debate with fellow citizens who do not share his faith. His meditations on the tensions between democracy and religion display the eloquence and independence of mind that have made Stephen L. Carter one of America's leading public intellectuals.-Michael Lind, New York Times Book Review

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Book Description HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New edition. 206 x 140 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. This text defends dialogue that negotiates conflict and keeps democracy alive, and at the same time it protrays America as dying from a refusal to engage in such a dialogue, a polity where everybody speaks, but nobody listens. It diagnoses the ailment of the body politic as the unwillingness of people in power to hear disagreement unless forced to, and precribes a new process of response. At the heart of this work is a re-reading of the Declaration of Independence that puts dissent, not consent, at the centre of the question of legitimacy of democratic government. The author argues that liberal constitutional ethos - the tendency to assume that the nation must everywhere be morally the same - pressures citizens to be other than themselves when being themselves would lead to disobedience. This he argues is particularly hard on the religious citizen whose sense of community may be quite different from that of the sovereign majority of citizens. This leads to a view for the autonomy of communities into which democratic citizens organize themselves as a condition for dissent, dialogue, and independence. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780674212664

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