Jean Bethke Elshtain — Christian ethicist, political philosopher and public intellectual — died on August 11th, 2013. I was acquainted with her work chiefly in connection with readings of the ethical debate over “just war” and Iraq, and prior to that, her numerous contributions to First Things (although she could by no means be confined to the “neocon” label given the diversity of her work, as evidenced by the numerous reflections on her passing).
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was received into the Catholic Church in her last years.
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Jean Bethke Elshtain served as the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, Divinity School, The University of Chicago, with appointments in Political Science and the Committee on International Relations.
She was a member of the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Scholars Council of the Library of Congress, and the Board of the National Endowment for Democracy. In 2008 she was appointed to the President’s Council on Bioethics by President George W. Bush.*
Among her published works are Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social and Political Thought (1993); Meditations on Modern Political Thought; Women and War; Democracy on Trial (a New York Times’ notable book for 1995); Real Politics: At the Center of Everyday Life; Augustine and the Limits of Politics; Who are We? Critical Reflections, Hopeful Possibilities (recipient of the Theologos Award for Best Academic Book 2000 by the Association of Theological Booksellers); Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (honored by the Society of Midland Authors in 2002); Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World (named one of the best nonfiction books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly); and Sovereignty: God, State, and Self (her Gifford Lectures, published 2008).
A prolific writer, Elshtain authored more than six hundred essays to various journals (including First Things, Commonweal and The New Republic).
Observance of her passing
- Christian ethicist Jean Bethke Elshtain dies at 72, by Sarah Pulliam Bailey. Religion News Service. 8/14/13.
- Jean Bethke Elshtain, scholar of religion and political philosophy, 1941-2013, by Susie Allen. University of Chicago. 08/12/13.
- Jean Bethke Elshtain, a Political Scientist Unafraid to Talk God, Has Died, by Emma Green. The Atlantic 08/13/13.
- Jean Bethke Elshtain, American ethicist, political philosopher, and public intellectual, 1941-2013 Lumen Christi Institute for Catholic Thought. University of Chicago.
- Jean Bethke Elshtain: In Memoriam, by Charles Matthewes. Political Theology Today 08/19/13.
- A Christian Realist, par Excellence, by Joseph Bottum. Weekly Standard Vol. 18, No. 47. 08/26/13.
- Jean Bethke Elshtain: Gifted Thinker and Courageous Woman, by Robert P. George. Public Discourse 08/15/13.
- Remembering Jean Bethke Elshtain, by Michael Sean Winters. National Catholic Reporter 08/14/13, reflecting on Elshtain’s Augustine and the Limits of Politics.
- Thoughts on Elshtain by Russell Arbin Fox. Front Porch Republic 8/13/2013.
- Videos of Jean Bethke Elshtain compiled by Robert Christian. Millenial 08/13/13.
- Jean Bethke Elshtain, RIP, by R.R. Reno. First Things “First Thoughts” 08/12/13.
- A Reflection on Jean Elshtain, by Thomas Berg. Mirror of Justice 08/17/13.
- She Stood for the Quotidian: Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941 – 2013), by Marc Livecche. The Gospel Coalition 08/13/13.
- Remembering Jean, by Peter Steinfels. Commonweal 08/13/13.
- On Elshtain: “Moral Anthropology, Social Ontology, and Authentic Human Freedom”, by Rick Garnett. Mirror of Justice 08/13/13.
- Jean Bethke Elshtain and “Legal Moralism”, by Marc DeGirolami. Mirror of Justice 08/13/13.
- Jean Bethke Elshtain, by Matthew Boudway. Commonweal 08/12/13.
* In June 2009, President Barack Obama’s administration informed members of the Council that their services were no longer needed. Through a spokesperson, Obama made clear that he intended to replace the committee with a body that “offers practical policy options” rather than philosophical guidance.