Over the last two decades, scholars have made a striking return to the resources of the Augustinian tradition to theorize citizenship, virtue, and the place of religion in public life. However, these scholars have not sufficiently attended to Augustine’s embrace of the position of the Christian slaveholder. To confront a racialized world, the modern Augustinian tradition of political thought must reckon with its own entanglements with the afterlife of the white Christian master.
Drawing Augustine’s politics and the resources of modern Black thought into extended dialogue, Matthew Elia develops a critical analysis of the enduring problem of the Christian master, even as he presses toward an alternative construal of key concepts of ethical life—agency, virtue, temporality—against and beyond the framework of mastery. Amid democratic crises and racial injustice on multiple fronts, the book breathes fresh life into conversations on religion and the public square by showing how ancient and contemporary sources at once clash and converge in surprising ways. It imaginatively carves a path forward for the enduring humanities inquiry into the nature of our common life and the perennial problem of social and political domination.