Extreme Virtue: Truth and Leadership in Five Great American Lives

ISBN: 9780791458808
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Publication Date: 2003-11-20
Number of pages: 150
  • $32.48

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DESCRIPTION

Explores leadership and civic virtue in American culture.

Extreme Virtue presents a new and radical approach to the problems of leadership and virtue in public life. Originating in the author's newspaper writing about the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, the book grapples with what has gone wrong in the American political system and describes what we should look for in our leaders. Sartwell argues that the real problem is a pervasive lack of truth in political leaders and that more can be accomplished by straight talk than by polling and focus groups.

The book consists of biographical portraits of five great Americans: anarchists Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre, conservative senator Barry Goldwater, Lakota spiritual leader John Fire Lame Deer, and black nationalist Malcolm X. The author argues that what makes these figures distinctively American is that each shares a suspicion of power and a vision of individual liberation. Despite their distinctive and unique approaches, each person is a model of truth in public life.

“These readings of five biographies in terms of civic virtues and the morality of leadership keep the discussion focused, concrete, and realistic. The result is an interesting, accessible, immensely well-written book on the morality of public life and discourse.” — Biography

"As with Sartwell's other work, this one is personal in the best way—that is, it has personality and character, rather than being either personal in the sense of self-indulgent or attempting objective impersonality to the point of complete dullness. It is thoroughly opinionated yet never overbearing. It persuasively argues for the virtues of its heroes, and acknowledges their vices, without ever being reduced to apologetics. It makes important and intriguing philosophical points about the nature not only of virtue but of human identity, but it does so almost on the sly, through the stories it tells, such that one is almost surprised at the end to realize that one has so enjoyably come to learn so much." — Karmen MacKendrick, author of Immemorial Silence

"With an eye on American culture writ large, this book is extremely important. Indirectly, it helps us to think more clearly about why our current political leadership is so woefully inadequate. But it also shows us the role models that we have, role models that we can turn to across obvious and worn out cultural-political divides." — John T. Lysaker, author of You Must Change Your Life: Poetry, Philosophy, and the Birth of Sense

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