What does it mean to be an American? A Westerner? A democrat? A capitalist? As the political tumult of recent years has shown, these questions are by no means settled. When the foundations of social order are contested, things get rowdy.
A capable scholar and adviser to some of the great men of our age, Donald Devine is well qualified to guide us as we revisit these issues. The Enduring Tension shows that answering the last of the above questions requires answering the other three as well. This book is not merely another paean to capitalism, although Devine is not shy about extolling its benefits. Instead, it is a broad social-philosophical work that reevaluates the sources of capitalism’s legitimacy.
The first part of the book is eclectic and wide-ranging. This is by necessity. To evaluate the moral foundations of capitalism, thinkers need to be familiar with many discussions in economics, history, and religion, among other fields. Devine does a good job presenting, summarizing, and interpreting the relevant conversations. For readers who are not familiar with these arguments, the going can be difficult. But there is no way to evaluate “the historical, scientific, moral, and philosophical assumptions that underlie the criticisms of capitalism” without laying this groundwork.