The political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain has died. Many people were fans of her work; I was not.

In her early scholarship, Elshtain established herself as a distinctive voice: feminist, Laschian, Arendtian. By the mid to late 1990s, however, she had descended into cliche.  As she dipped deeper into the well of communitarian anxiety, she would come up with stuff like “the center simply will not hold.” When she worried about the loss of historical memory, she would say “we are always boats moving against the current, ‘borne back ceaselessly into the past.'”

Every sentence felt like a windup to an inevitable, unsurprising conclusion. Any author or topic she mentioned, you knew the exact quote she was going to pull. [click to continue…]