Research

Michael’s research is animated by interdisciplinary interests in political theory, ethics, and religion. As a political theorist with experience in practical politics, he is especially interested in excavating insights from ancient and modern thinkers to inform the ethics of citizenship and educate leaders of character. 

Current Book Project: A Commonwealth of Hope: Augustine’s Political Thought (under contract with Princeton University Press)

Augustine of Hippo is one of the most influential thinkers in the history of political thought but one of the most contested in contemporary political theory. Many contemporary critics target Augustine’s pessimism, arguing that his fixation on sin and longing for the heavenly city deny the value of this-worldly politics. Rather than challenging this pessimism, many defenders parlay it for their own purposes, recruiting Augustine to chasten political optimism or encourage religious citizens to withdraw from the public square. A Commonwealth of Hope challenges this scholarly consensus by exposing the assumptions that underwrite it. Situating Augustine within his political, rhetorical, and historical contexts and integrating insights from political theory, philosophy, history, and religious studies, this interdisciplinary study offers the first extended analysis of Augustine’s concept of hope. In particular, the study draws on neglected treatises, sermons, and letters to retrieve Augustine’s virtue of hope as a way between vices of presumption and despair, troubling the common dichotomy between optimism and pessimism and highlighting the particular practices needed to cultivate the virtue. By advancing an innovative interpretation of the City of God and attending to Augustine’s implicit political and rhetorical practices, the book also uncovers resources for reconstructing hope as a distinctly civic virtue, enlisting Augustine to show how diverse citizens – both religious and secular – can share common objects of hope, even as they cast their ultimate hopes on different horizons. By illuminating this understudied virtue and engaging critics on their own terms, A Commonwealth of Hope advances a novel vision of Augustine’s political thought while illuminating resources that can inform democratic theory and practice.

Publications

Michael Lamb, “Augustine and Contemporary Political Theory: Toward an Augustinian Republicanism,” in Augustine in a Time of Crisis: Politics and Religion Contested, ed. Boleslaw Z. Kabala, Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo, and Nathan Pinkoksi (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2021).

Michael Lamb, Jonathan Brant, and Edward Brooks, “How Is Virtue Cultivated?: Seven Strategies for Postgraduate Character Development,” Journal of Character Education 17, no. 1 (forthcoming 2021). 

Jonathan Brant, Michael Lamb, Emily Burdett, and Edward Brooks, “Cultivating Virtues in Postgraduates: An Empirical Analysis of the Oxford Global Leadership Initiative,” Journal of Moral Education 49, no. 4 (2020), 415-435.

Jessica Koehler, Olga Pierrakos, Michael Lamb, Alana Demaske, Carlos Santos, Michael D. Gross, and Dylan Franklin Brown, “What Can We Learn from Character Education? A Literature Review of Four Prominent Virtues in Engineering Education,” 2020 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition (2020).

Olga Pierrakos, Mike Prentice, Cameron Silverglate, Michael Lamb, Alana Demaske, and Ryan Smout, “Reimagining Engineering Ethics: From Ethics Education to Character Education,” 2019 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (2019), 1-9.

Edward Brooks, Jonathan Brant, and Michael Lamb, “How Might Universities Cultivate Leaders of Character?: Insights from a Leadership and Character Development Program at the University of Oxford,” International Journal of Ethics Education, 4, no. 2 (2019), 167-182.

Michael Lamb and Brian Williams, eds., Everyday Ethics: Moral Theology and the Practices of Ordinary Life (Georgetown University Press, 2019).

Michael Lamb, “Augustine and Political Theory,” in T&T Clark Handbook of Political Theology, ed. Rubén Rosario Rodríguez (T&T Clark, 2020), 89-116.

Michael Lamb, “Introduction,” Symposium on John Bowlin’s Tolerance among the Virtues, Syndicate (forthcoming 2019).

Michael Lamb, Emma Taylor-Collins, and Cameron Silverglate, “Character Education for Social Action: A Conceptual Analysis of the #iwill Campaign,” Journal of Social Science Education, 18: 1 (2019), 125-152.

Michael Lamb, “Between Presumption and Despair: Augustine’s Hope for the Commonwealth,” American Political Science Review, 112: 4 (2018), 1036-1049.

Michael Lamb, “Beyond Pessimism: A Structure of Encouragement in Augustine’s City of God,Review of Politics, 80: 4 (2018), 591-624.

Michael Lamb, “Augustine and Republican Liberty: Contextualizing Coercion,” Augustinian Studies, 48: 1/2 (2017), 119-159. 

Michael Lamb, “Ethics for Climate Change Communicators,” in Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communicationed. Matthew C. Nisbet, Shirley S. Ho, Ezra Markowitz, Saffron O’Neill, Mike S. Schäfer, and Jagadish Thaker (Oxford University Press, 2018). *Reprinted in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science (Oxford University Press, 2017). 

Michael Lamb and Melissa Lane, “Aristotle on the Ethics of Communicating Climate Change,” in Climate Justice in a Non-Ideal World, ed. Clare Heyward and Dominic Roser (Oxford University Press, 2016), 229-254.

Michael Lamb, “Aquinas and the Virtues of Hope: Theological and Democratic,” Focus on Aquinas and the Democratic Virtues, Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 44, No. 2 (June 2016), 300-332.

Michael Lamb, “A Passion and Its Virtue: Aquinas on Hope and Magnanimity,” in Hope, ed., Ingolf U. Dalferth and Marlene A. Block (Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 67-88.

Michael Lamb, ed., Transformations: Stories of Service (Rhodes College, 2004).

 

Op-Eds and Interviews

Michael Lamb, “Biden’s Augustinian Call for Concord,” Breaking Ground (January 27, 2021)

Michael Lamb,Who Will Be Our Exemplar in Chief?Winston-Salem Journal (October 30, 2020).

Michael Lamb, “Campus Teaching Award Winner: Michael Lamb,” Political Science Now (May 24, 2017).

 

Research in Progress

A Commonwealth of Hope: Reimagining Augustine’s Political Thought (forthcoming with Princeton University Press)

Cultivating Virtue in the University (co-edited volume with Jonathan Brant and Edward Brooks, under contract with Oxford University Press)

The Arts of Leading: Perspectives from the Humanities and Liberal Arts (co-edited volume with Edward Brooks, under review)

“Difficult Hope: Wendell Berry and Climate Change” (forthcoming in Oxford University Press edited volume on hope)

“Millennials and Leadership: The Trust Gap” (with Rogan Kersh and Cameron Silverglate)

“Purposeful Change: The Positive Effects of a Course-based Intervention on Character” (with Sara Mendonça and Elise Dykhuis, under review)

“Digital Temperance: Adapting an Ancient Virtue for a Technological Age” (with Dylan Brown, under review)

Augustine and Republican Liberty (manuscript in progress)

Democratic Hope (manuscript in progress)


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