Cover image for This hemisphere of liberty : a philosophy of the Americas
This hemisphere of liberty : a philosophy of the Americas
Novak, Michael.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : AEI Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
153 pages ; 23 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


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JC599.L3 N68 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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As nations undergo radical transformation in every quarter of the world, we have a greater need than ever before to re-examine the sources of strength and weakness in our political, social and economic institutions. This book explores fundamental questions of wealth and poverty, of freedom and responsibility, and traces our ideas about them to their sources in Aristotle, Aquinas, and the Judeo-Christian tradition. Novak shows how an understanding of these sources can liberate human potential for creativity, reinvigorate our institutions and lay the foundations for economic progress. Special attention is given to the roots of Latin America's problems of debt, capital flight, and poverty in its religious and philosophical outlook.

Author Notes

Michael John Novak Jr. was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on September 9, 1933. At the age of 14, he entered the preparatory seminary at the University of Notre Dame. He received a bachelor's degree in philosophy and English literature in 1956 from Stonehill College and a bachelor's degree in theology in 1958 from Gregorian University in Rome. While in Rome, he wrote for the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal and the Jesuit weekly America. After studying for a time at Catholic University in Washington, he decided not to become a priest.

He wrote a novel entitled The Tiber Was Silver. He received a master's degree in philosophy in 1966 from Harvard University. He taught at several universities including Stanford University, the State University of New York at Old Westbury, and the Catholic University of America. He wrote speeches and position papers for Eugene McCarthy, Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern. In 1982, he founded the magazine Crisis with Ralph McInerny.

He wrote numerous books during his lifetime including Belief and Unbelief: A Philosophy of Self-Knowledge, A Time to Build, A Theology for Radical Politics, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics: Politics and Culture in the Seventies, Choosing Our King: Powerful Symbols in Presidential Politics, Confession of a Catholic, Will It Liberate?: Questions About Liberation Theology, The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers, and Writing from Left to Right: My Journey From Liberal to Conservative. In 1994, he received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He died from colon cancer on February 17, 2017 at the age of 83.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

The subject of this book, the author writes, ``is how to build institutions of liberty in this hemisphere of the Americas.'' Its thrust is twofold. First, Novak argues that North Americans and Latin Americans often speak past each other conceptually. Without an understanding of the Catholic intellectual traditions of southern Europe and Latin America, he contends, ``one cannot really enter the horizon of Latin American intellectual discourse.'' Second, he asserts that the basic reason Latin America has not reached full liberation is that it offers insufficient economic opportunity for the masses of its people. For this he offers a prescription: capitalism with minimal state intervention. But Novak has simply put a moral gloss on the standard argument that capitalism will solve the severe problems of backward economies; lacking any new ideas, his book fails to convince. Not a necessary purchase.-- Nedda C. Allbray, Brooklyn Coll., N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Few North Americans have addressed the social, economic, and religious problems of Latin America in the past decade with more wisdom than has Michael Novak. In earlier books like The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982) and Will It Liberate? (CH, Jul'87), Novak offered Latin Americans a reasoned, economically and politically sound alternative to the excesses of many so-called liberation theologians. Those books led to numerous speaking engagements throughout Latin America. Novak's reflections on his dialogue with Latins have resulted in the refinements of his earlier views, now published in this book. The argument centers on Novak's new emphasis upon what he calls "the Catholic Whig tradition," a vision he traces back to Thomas Aquinas. The liberty mentioned in his title assumes three forms--a liberty from poverty, from tyranny, and from oppression of conscience. What this results in is a totally new kind of liberation theology, one eminently worthy of careful examination. For a Protestant parallel to Novak's vision, see R. H. Nash's Social Justice and the Christian Church (CH, Jul'83) and Poverty and Wealth (1986). Highly recommended.-R. H. Nash, Western Kentucky University