Prof. Jean Bethke Elshtain
Augustinian Reflections on Modern Public Culture
On December 1, 2011, Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago gave an honorary lecture hosted by the Thomistic Institute. Her lecture was titled, "Christian Realism: Augustinian Reflections on Modern Public Culture." In the City of God, St. Augustine famously proposed the heavenly city as the model for the political goals and social governance of the Earthly City. Professor Elshtain spoke about the relevance of St. Augustine's political theory even in a contemporary secular society, and sought to defend Augustine from those modern scholars who would list him as one of the originators of political realism in the West, a precursor to Hobbes, Hume and even Machiavelli. Elshtain believes that this is made possible by a deeper reading of certain features of St. Augustine's Christian theology, such as the concept of Charity.
Professor Elshtain has has been a leading American intellectual for decades, and has consistently made insightful contributions at the intersections between theology, culture and anthropology. She is the author of numerous books, including Augustine and the Limits of Politics (Notre Dame, 1996). She has also written over five hundred articles and has lectured extensively in the United States and internationally. Dr. Elshtain has been a Fellow at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, and has served on the Council of the National Endowment of the Humanities at the request of President George W. Bush. Jean Bethke Elshtain is currently the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School, University of Chicago.