chapter  2
16 Pages

Women and War: Ten Years On

WithJean Bethke Elshtain

The questions with which I began and ended Women and War remain: How might we locate ourselves in order to create space for a less rigid play of individual and civic identities and virtues than those we have thus far known? What alternatives of citizenship can we draw upon? What perspectives within our reach offer hope for sustaining an ethos that extends the prospect of limiting force and the threat of force? That I draw from the “Preface” to Women and War. In the book’s conclusion, I recommend a form of civic membership that cannot and does not place duty and loyalty to one’s particular political body above all else; nevertheless, one that honors and gives ethical and civic weight precisely to that form of membership. I called this civic character a “chastened patriot,” one who is critical of the excesses of nationalism and critical as well of feminist arguments that express contempt for forms of identity as these are embodied in loyalties to ways of life shared by men and women. At the same time, this civic paragon of mine is also critical of those who defend particular ways of life in a way that generates contempt for the universalistic features of feminist concerns for the dignity and rights of women. The chastened patriot is one who understands and honors both universalistic and particularistic commitments, one for whom neither automatically trumps the other.