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When it comes to politics, Augustine of Hippo is renowned as one of history’s great pessimists, with his sights set firmly on the heavenly city rather than the public square. Many have enlisted him to chasten political hopes, highlighting the realities of evil and encouraging citizens instead to cast their hopes on heaven. A Commonwealth of Hope challenges prevailing interpretations of Augustinian pessimism, offering a new vision of his political thought that can also help today’s citizens sustain hope in the face of despair.
Amid rising inequality, injustice, and political division, many citizens wonder what to hope for in politics and whether it is possible to forge common hopes in a deeply polarized society. Michael Lamb takes up this challenge, offering the first in-depth analysis of Augustine’s virtue of hope and its profound implications for political life. He draws on a wide range of Augustine’s writings—including neglected sermons, letters, and treatises—and integrates insights from political theory, religious studies, theology, and philosophy. Lamb shows how diverse citizens, both religious and secular, can unite around common hopes for the commonwealth.
Recovering this understudied virtue and situating Augustine within his political, rhetorical, and religious contexts, A Commonwealth of Hope reveals how Augustine’s virtue of hope can help us resist the politics of presumption and despair and confront the challenges of our time.