Starting Points

At Starting Points, we take the long view of American politics. Non-partisan and interdisciplinary, we aim to understand American politics by looking before and beyond our current political situation—before to the historical, cultural and intellectual roots of American politics, and beyond to the overarching ideas and guiding ideals of our unique political tradition.

LATEST ARTICLES

Author Interview with Mark Alznauer
by The Political Theory Review August 12, 2017
- A Political Theory Review interview with Mark Alznauer about his new book, Hegel's Theory of Responsibility
Trump’s Twist on Identity Politics
by James F. Pontuso August 7, 2017
- Trump has been successful with his base because he has given voice to those who feel like victims for being patriots.
Feminism, Transgenderism and the Politics of Identity
by Scott Yenor July 31, 2017
- Following the logic of the feminist revolution toward its embrace of transgender rights provides insights into its unpredictable character.
The Career of American Feminism and its Rolling Revolution
by Scott Yenor July 24, 2017
- The success of the second-wave feminist project requires a fundamental revolution in society’s mores and institutions. This revolution is closely connected with Dewey’s progressive political project.
Author Interview with Peter Steinberger
by The Political Theory Review July 17, 2017
- A Political Theory Review interview with Peter Steinberger about his new book, The Politics of Objectivity
Author Interview with Steven Smith
by The Political Theory Review July 10, 2017
- A Political Theory Review interview with Steven Smith about his new book, Modernity and Its Discontents
From the Editor: The Declaration of Independence and the History of Ideas
by S. Adam Seagrave July 4, 2017
- The Declaration echoed the united voices of the ancients and moderns on the idea of nature’s relevance for politics, and highlighted the constructive character of preceding European political thought.
Author Interview with Ryan Patrick Hanley
by The Political Theory Review July 3, 2017
- A Political Theory Review interview with Ryan Patrick Hanley about his new book, Love's Enlightenment: Rethinking Charity in Modernity
Plutocrats and Demagogues: The Prophetic Warning of Montesquieu
by Nicholas W. Drummond June 26, 2017
- The French political thinker Baron de Montesquieu predicted the divisiveness of our current political climate. He also anticipated the two major threats likely to emerge in large democratic republics like the United States: plutocrats and tyrant demagogues.
James Madison: Politician or Political Theorist? Part II
by James H. Read and Kevin R. C. Gutzman June 19, 2017
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring James Read and Kevin Gutzman
James Madison: Politician or Political Theorist? Part I
by James H. Read and Kevin R. C. Gutzman June 12, 2017
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring James Read and Kevin Gutzman
Are “All Men Created Equal” after Darwin? Part II
by Ken Blanchard and Thomas J. Kaiser June 5, 2017
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring Ken Blanchard and Thomas J. Kaiser
Are “All Men Created Equal” after Darwin? Part I
by Ken Blanchard and Thomas J. Kaiser June 5, 2017
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring Ken Blanchard and Thomas J. Kaiser
On Madison’s Majoritarianism
by Cary Federman May 29, 2017
- As Madison argued both in 1833 and in 1787-88, majority rule reflects the best version of democratic governance given the limitations of human nature and our constitutional arrangements.
Author Interview with John T. Scott
by The Political Theory Review May 25, 2017
- A Political Theory Review Podcast Interview with John T. Scott about his new book, The Routledge Guidebook to Machiavelli’s The Prince
The May Resolution and the Declaration of Independence
by John Schmeeckle May 22, 2017
- A common starting point for analyzing both the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Bill of Rights is a neglected earlier document: the Continental Congress's Resolution of May 10 and 15, 1776.
Thanks, Moms
by Mary Beth McConahey May 14, 2017
- Much has changed for American mothers over the past two hundred and forty-one years, but like the mothers who preceded us, we’re raising children. We’re making citizens. We’re perpetuating the project of 1776.
A Nation Without a Soul? A Response to Sarah L. Houser’s “Accountability Nationalism”
by Aaron Q. Weinstein May 8, 2017
- Nationalism and religious life are intricately intertwined in the United States. A “civil religion of the Nones,” if it comes into existence, could portend significant changes in American nationalism.
Author Interview with Catherine H. Zuckert
by The Political Theory Review May 4, 2017
- A Political Theory Review Podcast
Civic Myth in the Age of Trumpian Reality: Part I
by Alan Gibson May 1, 2017
- The sweep of American history yields four distinct narratives of American identity, or civic myths. An ethnically inclusive, multicultural narrative of national identity fused from our most prominent American stories has the best chance of promoting economic prosperity while also projecting a superior normative vision of America to its own citizens and the world.
Civic Myth in the Age of Trumpian Reality: Part II
by Alan Gibson May 1, 2017
- Hope for building a shared narrative of national identity lies in the formation of an inclusive civic myth based upon the Gettysburg narrative and the Horatio Alger story.
A Nation with the Soul of a Church: Principles and Practice in American National Identity
by Sarah L. Houser April 24, 2017
- It is best to think of having a national identity as sharing a sense of accountability for the actions of one’s country. To identify as an American means to take some sort of ownership in the collective actions of its people, to understand those actions as in some way one’s own.
National Identity and Helping Fellow Americans
by Elizabeth Theiss-Morse April 17, 2017
- If the national community needs people to behave selflessly by giving to charities, paying taxes willingly, and supporting government programs to help those less fortunate, then it is those who strongly identify as Americans and who have an inclusive view of who counts as an American who are the main contributors to the nation’s well-being.
The Democratic Lineage of Trump’s Ethnic Nationalism
by Benjamin E. Park April 13, 2017
- Donald Trump’s rhetoric and proposed policies are a reminder that America has always had as much ethnic as civic foundations for its nationalist imagination.
American Anthem: The National Anthem and African American Nationhood
by Stephanie Shonekan April 10, 2017
- Until the work of racial reconciliation in the U.S. is done, questions will remain and the Star Spangled Banner will fall short of fitting snugly and comfortably on the proud shoulders of those who expect more from their country.
The Mystic Chords Of Memory: Reflections on American Identity II
by Peter C. Myers April 6, 2017
- A pervading theme of Madison’s and Lincoln’s reflections on American identity is the moral and psychological realism that informs both men’s reflections. The second installment of a two-part essay.
The Mystic Chords Of Memory: Reflections on American Identity I
by Peter C. Myers April 5, 2017
- Disputes touching the question of national identity have arisen throughout our history. Overarching all such disputes is the fundamental question: What does it mean to be an American? The first installment of a two-part essay.
Let Middlebury be Middlebury. And BYU be BYU.
by Peter Augustine Lawler April 3, 2017
- DeVos and Trump trumpet school choice in the spirit of deregulation and in the service of equal citizenship. The same opportunities for a variety of kinds of quality education should be available to everyone—and not just folks in their bubbles. The focus should be on sustaining through deregulation the diversity in our whole system of higher education.
America First but not America Over Others
by Juliana Geran Pilon March 27, 2017
- When Donald Trump states that our nation’s interests come first, he is indeed following in the Founders’ footsteps. Putting American self-interest first does not, though, imply a crassly selfish or imperialistic disregard for the interests and rights of other nations.
Humility, Hubris, and the Next Supreme Court Justice
by Zachary K. German and Robert J. Burton March 20, 2017
- The idea of humility as virtue and hubris as vice in the exercise of judicial power has been an enduring theme in American political and legal discourse. It knows no partisan, ideological, or historical boundaries. For that reason, it behooves us to pierce through its rhetorical uses and search for a more theoretical, more principled understanding of the concept.

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