Born in what is now Algeria, Augustine trained in classical Latin rhetoric and became a professor of rhetoric in Rome. He later studied neo-Platonic philosophy and experienced a conversion to Christianity in 386.
[Through his numerous theological writings, Augustine became one of the major architects of Latin Christian political theory at a time when Roman civilization was in decline.] In his work ‘The City of God’, Augustine developed his most influential doctrines: on history, grace and predestination, free will, a true republic, the duties of Christians to the state, the just war, the relationship of the institutional Church to secular government and the ‘city of God’ to 'the city of man'. This notion of the two cities influenced political theory throughout the next 800 years and beyond.
[The political theories of Augustine rest on his profoundly pessimistic view that human nature is corrupted beyond any hope of rational self-amelioration and that man tends naturally to do evil rather than to do good. As a consequence of this, political association is, for Augustine, an instrument of coercion and protection from harm rather that an instrument of human fulfilment.]
Augustine’s ideas were adopted and rejected in turn throughout the middle ages as men attempted to reconcile his negative views of the necessity of the state with the more optimistic views of Aristotle, rediscovered in the 13th century. The Reformation in the 16th century saw a revival of the influence of Augustine’s thought and his political opinions have special resonances for the 20th century.
The stimulating articles contained in these two volumes serve to explain and to explore the development of Augustine’s ideas on society and politics.