In the course of researching the reviews of Mortimer J. Adler’s 1970s books, I ran across one by George Kateb. At the time he was a junior faculty member at Amherst College*, but is now an emeritus professor at Princeton University.
I don’t know anything about Kateb’s reputation among political philosophers, but his Wikipedia entry (or “Professor Wikipedia,” in Bill Fine’s words) calls him a “staunch individualist” and relays that “Kateb, along with John Rawls and Isaiah Berlin, is credited with making significant contributions to liberal political theory.” Heady company. Suffice it to say that he is a champion for liberalism.
Here are the books authored by him alone:
– Utopia and Its Enemies. New York and London: Free Press, l963. Reprinted with a new Preface, New York: Schocken, l972.
– Political Theory: Its Nature and Uses. New York: St Martin’s Press, l968.
– Hannah Arendt: Politics, Conscience, Evil. Totowa, N.J. and London: Rowman and Allanheld, l984.
– The Inner Ocean: Individualism and Democratic Culture. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992.
– Emerson and Self-Reliance. Sage, 1994. 2d edition, with a new Preface, New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.
– Patriotism and Other Mistakes. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.
The topics that are the objects of these books arise in predictable spots when one searches the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online. This at least affirms something of Kateb’s authority, or usefulness.
What do you know about Kateb? Where does he appear in USIH historiography? I haven’t found him in any recent intellectual histories. So how can he really be on par with Rawls and Berlin in terms of contributions to political philosophy? What is Kateb’s place in the history of American political philosophy? Who _is_ George Kateb?
Not that this answers any of my questions, but Kateb has made an appearance at the NYT philosophy blog, The Stone (the link takes you to a video interview–here’s a transcripted excerpt). There Kateb characterizes himself “as an oncologist or pathologist of politics.” To that point, his Wikipedia page adds: “More recently Kateb has turned his attention to what he sees as the increasing erosion of individual liberty wrought by the Bush administration and the poisonous influence of religious, ethnic and statist group identity on morality.” Most interesting.
My inclination is to put him in the camp of non-analytic political philosophers whose works support a kind of secular libertarianism. But he also appears to have some sense of community responsibility. So perhaps he is simply a paragon of the individualist strain in mid-century liberalism. Thoughts? Let’s see if we can build some kind of historiography in relation to his thought in the comments. – TL
*Kateb was interviewed by Amherst professor William Taubman in 2008.