The Case for Greatness



This book is a spirited look at political ambition, and particularly its good version, honourable ambition. Robert Faulkner contends that too many modern accounts of leadership slight such things as a determination to excel, good judgement, and a sense of honour, the very qualities that distinguish the truly great. This book is an attempt to recover what the author calls 'a reasonable understanding of excellence', that which distinguishes an F. D. Roosevelt and a Lincoln, and that which lesser leaders lack. Faulkner thus turns to key accounts from antiquity and examines closely Aristotle's great-souled man, two biographies of the spectacular Athenian general and politician Alcibiades, and the history of Cyrus the Great. There results a complex and compelling picture of greatness. Faulkner dissects military and imperial ambition, the art of leadership, and, in a later example of George Washington, ambition in the service of popular self-government. He also addresses modern indictments of even the best forms of political greatness, whether in the idealism of Kant, the relativism and brutalism of Nietzsche, or the egalitarianism of Rawls and Arendt.
He shows how modern philosophy came to doubt and indeed disdain honourable ambition. This book is a nuanced defence of admirable ambition and the honour-seeking life, as well as an irresistible invitation to apply these terms to our own times and leaders.


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Robert Faulkner is professor of political science at Boston College.

General Fields

  • : 9780300123937
  • : Yale University Press
  • : Yale University Press
  • : 0.467
  • : January 2008
  • : 230mm X 152mm X 22mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : BB
  • : 303.34
  • : 288