Augustine’s thought has ever held a deep attraction for the Western mind and has, of course, profoundly shaped the moral traditions that inform Western political culture. Although Augustine, the Christian theologian and statesman, never produced anything that may be considered a treatise on political philosophy, certain conceptions developed in his voluminous writings became embodied in the Christian worldview which shapes social and political reality to the present day.
This article will examine those elements of Augustine’s thought that bear on the issue of the proper tasks of political authority and will explore his insights for the light they shed on the appropriate role of government in a decent society. The aim is to show that both his political thought and ontology are in accord with the vision that impels the demand for limited government as well as with the view that regards “politics” as an inappropriate means for either individual or social improvement. We conclude that Augustine, the “intellectual father of the concept of the limited state,” offers a realistic interpretation of political phenomena that remains an indispensable counterweight to the political idealism of both classical and contemporary political thought.
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