Friday, January 4, 2013

The Forum and the Tower

The Forum and the Tower: How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World, From Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt
By Mary Ann Glendon, Oxford University Press, 2011, 261 pp., ISBN 978-0-19-978245-1, $27.95.
This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
Catholic Library World, Sep2012, Vol. 83 Issue 1, p.65
Mary Ann Glendon notes that many of her students want to make a difference in the world. Many of these students either choose academic life or the political arena. Many of her students, however, struggle with the idea that they will have to compromise themselves if they enter the political arena. Glendon is no stranger to both academic and political life. She is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and is a former United States Ambassador to the Vatican. The Forum and the Tower presents short biographies on major intellectuals who experienced both the intellectual and public arena. There are individual chapters on Plato, Cicero, Machiavelli, John Locke, Rousseau, Edmund Burke, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others. She uses these individuals to explore the questions asked by her students: “Is politics such a dirty business, or are conditions so unfavorable, that I couldn’t make a difference? What kinds of compromises can one make for the sake of getting and keeping a position from which one might be able to have influence on the course of events? (Xiii)”  Glendon presents answers to these questions and many others.
Some of the thinkers, Cicero and Edmund Burke, were successful in both the political arena and in the intellectual arena. Others were successful in either the forum or the tower. Tocqueville and Weber were better fitted for academic life even though they wanted a political life.  Glendon analyzes the common law tradition when she compares Thomas Hobbes and Edward Coke. The author shows that not many people have the skills to be successful in both the forum and the tower, but it is necessary for them to listen to each other. For John Lock wrote, “Both the man of action and the man of contemplation are diminished if they remain shut up in their own worlds” (222). This book is recommended for all libraries.

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