Apropos of my remarks below , a reader writes:

It seems to me that you’re taking his quote about the politicization out of context, first of all. He’s downright Aristotelian, it seems to me, in his conception of what politics is. What makes me say this is the role he sees marriage playing in the life of a community. It’s vital. It’s at the heart of it. And it forms the model, writ small, of what the polis ought to be, writ large. Only affection and love, mutual concern, generosity, forbearance: these alone can sustain politics. And, you’ll notice, these are vital for marriage. Now, Aristotle doesn’t say that. But he does talk about the relation of man and wife as a relation of equals, and as a kind of domestic polis.

So when he talks about marriage becoming political, he obviously does not mean political in this more edifying sense. He means it in the sense you indicate, that of competing rights claims, etc. He calls this kind of marriage “politics” in the lowest contemporary sense of the word. It’s about grasping, rather than giving. It’s about one-upsmanship rather than forgiveness. It’s about getting what I can, rather than giving all I can. And this is a picture, too, of the worst kind of politics.

Now, this kind of politics is, perhaps, all that is possible on our current grand scale. It’s obvious that Berry’s — and Aristotle’s — preferred kind of politics is only possible on smaller scales. And this, even as he contemplates the nature of “a public” versus “a community” in “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community.” The rules governing each of these is different. And it’s not the simple public/private divide.

Articles by James Poulos


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