The Arts of Rule Eds. Krause/McGrail

The Arts of Rule: Essays in Honor of Harvey Mansfield, Sharon R. Krause and Mary Ann McGrail, eds., Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009.


This is a book about the arts of rule. It has been created for the purpose of honoring Harvey C. Mansfield, who has taught so many of us so much about these arts. Above all, he has made us aware of their variety. The arts of rule cover the exercise of power by princes and popular sovereigns but they range beyond the domain of government itself. They also guide activity in the many sites within society where the power of government is contested or through which it is internally divided, such as civil associations, political parties, and religious institutions. The art of party politics, for example, is one of the arts of rule—and is available not only for the use of those who frame political constitutions but for political partisans themselves. The arts of rule orient the individual soul as well, helping us to guide ourselves, to steer a true course through the calms and swells, and sometimes the furious gales, of a human life. The art of friendship, for instance, can elevate our aspirations, ennoble our actions, and lead us to better lives. The arts of rule have a comprehensive character in this sense, even if it is true that the best government is a limited one.

This comprehensiveness comes from the fact that the arts of rule have their roots in political philosophy. When Socrates asked the question that began political philosophy—What should we do and how should we live?—he meant to make people think about themselves and their polities in light of a larger whole. This wider view puts individual lives and political orders in perspective with reference to enduring principles whose reality is independent of human choices but accessible to human reason. The wider view that philosophy offers is called forth by the activity of ruling itself. For ruling means acting with authority (whether over others or over oneself), and acting always means acting in one way rather than another.