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Normative Theories of Society and Government in Five Medieval Thinkers St. Augustine, John of Salisbury, Giles of Rome, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Marsilius of Padua
Dyson, R. W.


This book is a detailed scholarly examination of five major medieval thinkers who sought to bring out the implications, for social and political life and organizations, of the doctrines, thought-patterns and language of Christianity, and to define the role of the institutional Church in that life and organization. At the heart of their thought lies a large and pervasive question: is unaided human nature capable of genuinely moral activity, and hence of constructive political association? The study takes due account of biographical information, and an understanding of the cultural, historical and political circumstances in relation to which the chosen authors perceived their enterprise. It examines the development of the ‘ideology’ of the medieval Church with particular reference to three things: the emergence and career of the ‘Augustinian/Gelasian principle’; the contribution of Pope Gregory VII and the immediate and long-term issues underlying that contribution; and the decisive conflict at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries between Pope Boniface VIII and King Philip IV of France. The book closes with a postscript which describes some of the developments that have transformed the agenda of political theory from ‘medieval’ to ‘modern.’


“Dyson’s book is excellent: interesting and even entertaining, and it will be of great value to more advanced scholars wanting to get a clearer perception of the history of medieval political thought as a coherent whole….because of Dyson’s strategic choice of the five thinkers discussed, and because of the book’s strong unifying conception, it gives a better sense of the development of medieval political thought than comprehensive narratives manage to do….The chapters on Augustine and Aquinas are especially good….The clarity and impact of the book is due mainly to the author’s intellectual grasp of his material. His writing is clear, fluent, and unpretentious.” – John Kilcullen, Macquarie University

“It is on the one hand an admirably clear account of the views of five medieval thinkers, each set within his own context and understood on his own terms. At the same time it tells a story: the dramatic story of the rise and fall of ‘political Augustinianism,’ …. While remaining true to strict canons of scholarship, Dyson has managed to produce an account that is entirely accessible to the non-medievalist, and indeed his book raises questions about the interaction of politics and ideas (particularly religious ideas) that all students of politics need to think about.” – Margaret Canovan, Keele University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents: Preface by Professor Nicholas Rengger Introduction 1. The Political Theology of S. Augustine of Hippo 2. The Medieval Political Dilemma: Gelasius I to Gregory VII 3. The Church and the ‘Body Politic’: The Policraticus of John of Salisbury 4. The Political Theory of Papal Monarchy: Giles of Rome’s De ecclesiastica potestate 5. St. Thomas Aquinas: Aristotelianism and the Redemption of Politics 6. Marsilius of Padua: Defensor pacis and the Undermining of Papal Monarchy 7. From Anagni to Basle: the ‘Conciliar Movement’ and the end of Plenitudo Potestatis Appendices; Bibliography; Index

ISBN10:  0-7734-6702-5   ISBN13:  978-0-7734-6702-6    Pages:  332    Year:  2003   

Series: Medieval Studies Number: 21

Subject Areas:  Medieval & Renaissance - History, Philosophy - Medieval, Religion & Patristics - Medieval,

Imprint: Edwin Mellen Press

USA List Price: $149.95 UK List Price: £ 99.95  

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