Thursday, April 1, 2010

90 / Tussman

I was a politics major at Stanford University before I switched to United States History. I still have a lot of books from that era, arranged according to the shelving system used at the Stanford Bookstore. On the cover of a book by Joseph Tussman, I've penned this advisory: "Brilliant Book."

The book I thought so brilliant, Obligation and the Body Politic, is still available, with used hardcover editions going from $.55, plus mailing. I still recommend it.

I particularly recommend the book's discussion of "compromise," as found in the Chapter entitled "Democracy." As Tussman says:

That compromise is a reasonable and democratic way of dealing with controversy ... fails us in several respects. It does not seem to apply where things really matter; nor does it produce anything really satisfactory. It is, as a political doctrine, a sort of weary congressional view of things. It may 'contain' conflict and quiet the House but it contains very little else, and certainly does not contain the art of governing.

... The belief in compromise goes hand in hand with the belief in consumer sovereignty, competitive individualism, and the invisible hand. And these are the notions which have subverted the authentic conception of democratic political life....
Obligation and the Body Politic is a brilliant book. It argues that self-government is intended to help us, together, confront the very real challenges that face us in what Tussman calls the "external" world - the world we don't create ourselves. At a time when the external dangers we face are linked, substantially, to the continued combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, a "compromise" that increases the production of such fuels, while exposing our fragile marine environments to ever greater assaults, does, indeed "fail us."

You can get more information on Tussman by clicking on the image.

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