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Review of Julie Hanlon Rubio, Hope for Common Ground: Mediating the Personal and the Political in a Divided Church Moral Traditions series (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2016). xxi + 242 pp. ISBN 978-1-62616-306-5

It is no secret that we live in a time of intense polarization, perhaps especially in the American political context. This situation may be explained in a number of ways. Some will point to increasing economic inequality or socioeconomic and racial ‘sorting’. Others may point to the concurrent rise of ‘identity politics’ and the ‘politics of resentment’. Others will highlight the effects of technology, including the rise of algorithm-driven social media networks, on public discourse. Still others will highlight the way the internet has democratized media and journalism, paving the way for hyper-partisan news outlets and an endless cycle of claims of ‘fake news’. Yet others will point to other factors. Whatever we take to be the primary cause (in reality, each of those likely contributes to the problem), we cannot deny the effects: we live in a time when it is increasingly difficult to cooperate with, and in many cases even to communicate meaningfully with, those who differ from us politically, socioeconomically, and culturally. It is enough to make one wonder whether genuine politics, the sort described by Aristotle, Thomas, and the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), is even possible in our time. Are we left with the bleak choice between Machiavellian Realpolitik and the outright rejection of politics, perhaps through a personal or ecclesiological ethic of nonparticipation?


Originally published by SAGE Journals in Studies in Christian Ethics

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