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religion and democracy

Jean Bethke Elshtain

Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of So- cial and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School and Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Chair in the Foundations of American Freedom at Georgetown University, delivered the 2008 Seymour Mar- tin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World (see box on p. 6). Her most recent book is Sovereignty: God, State, and Self (2008).

When I was a graduate student of political science, the work of Sey- mour Martin Lipset appeared regularly on the syllabi for my American politics courses. His seminal 1960 book Political Man was, even then, acknowledged as a classic in the study of politics. I vividly recall a little flap that occurred in one of my seminars when the day arrived for our discussion of the book. By the late 1960s, feminism was already a force on U.S. campuses, and the volume was called Political Man, after all. The “man” part made it suspect in the eyes of some: As usual, went the story, a male political scientist was ignoring or even demeaning women.

A reading of the text, however, made it clear that Professor Lipset’s analysis of political behavior was not, for the most part, gender-specific. He certainly was not making invidious comparisons between men and women as citizens. Once we had all calmed down and read the book, we recognized it as the stellar achievement of a consummate political scientist—clearly written, carefully thought out, precise in its use of data, and careful to avoid drawing overly grand conclusions. So, to deliver a lecture to which Professor Lipset’s name is attached is a humbling experi- ence, and I am indeed grateful. Although I am a political theorist rather than an empirical political scientist, I am delighted to link hands with Professor Lipset who, in his insightful essay on “Religion and American Values,” reported that “democratic and religious values have grown together.”1 Professor Lipset was perspicacious where many political scientists have not been.

When I was in graduate school in the 1960s, a distinguished visitor

Journal of Democracy Volume 20, Number 2 April 2009 © 2009 National Endowment for Democracy and The Johns Hopkins University Press

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