The Beginning of Politics: Power in the Biblical Book of Samuel
Author: Moshe Halbertal and Stephen Holmes
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Though widely acknowledged as one of the supreme achievements of biblical literature, the Book of Samuel offers more than inspired storytelling. The book's anonymous author forwards astute observations regarding the political life, moral compromises and contradictions that the struggle for power inevitably entails. In The Beginning of Politics, Moshe Halbertal and Stephen Holmes mine the finely crafted narratives of Saul and David to unearth a natural history of power, providing both a forceful new reading of what is arguably the first and greatest work of Western political thought, as well as a timely meditation on the dark side of sovereign power and the enduring dilemmas of statecraft.
The authors deepen our understanding of sovereign rule and its high social costs—to the people it is intended to protect and to those who wield it. What emerges from their meticulous analysis of the stories Saul's madness, David's murder of Uriah, the rape of Tamar, the rebellion of Absalom, and more, includes such themes as the corrosive grip of power on competing factions that so often results in violence, kingly isolation, and paranoia; the frequency with which policy is conducted by proxies to maintain a pose of deniability; and the intensity with which the tragic conflict between political loyalty and family loyalty explodes when the ruler's bloodline is made into the guarantor of the all-important continuity of sovereign power.
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