The Politics of Human Naturenby Thomas Flemingnl^ew Brunswick, NJ: TransactionnBooks; 276 pp.,n$29.95nIn The Politics of Human Nature,nThomas Fleming has boldly undertakennto delineate a system of naturalnpolitics. A classicist by training, Flemingnbelieves that “the collapse of Romannauthority in the West created ancrisis from which political thinking hasnnever quite recovered.” Since that collapse,nthe vision of the lost unity ofnRome’s dominion has haunted politicalnthinking, much as the vision of a lostnEden has haunted Christianity. In ournown time, the destructive forces ofnmodern technology have transformednthat unrealizable, universalist dreamninto a nightmare that threatens ournvery survival. Yet the dream persists,naccording to Fleming, largely becausenof the natural—and not inherentlynevil — human propensity to seek simplensolutions to complex questions.nElizabeth Fox-Genovese is director ofnthe Institute for Women’s Studies atnEmory University in Atlanta.n34/CHRONICLESnAhistorical Admonitionsnby Elizabeth Fox-Genovesen”One age cannot be completely understood if allnothers are not understood. The song of history cannonly be sung as a whole.”n— Ortega y GassetnEvoking Aristotle, his main intellectualnhero, Fleming reminds us that we arenby nature eager to know. The troublenarises when our eagerness to know —nto create some comprehensible ordernout of the apparent disorder of life —nleads us into abstractions that ridenroughshod over the reality of our naturenand relations.nBeginning with Thomas Hobbesn(one of Fleming’s leading villains),npolitical theorists have increasinglyngrounded the dream of unity in annapparently contradictory commitmentnto the primacy of the individual, whomnthey have taken to constitute the basicnunit of society, and have viewed as thenfundamental unit or embodiment ofnrights. Fleming perceptively allows thatnthe emphasis on individuality has notnbeen entirely a bad thing, if onlynbecause it has fostered that insistencenupon the moral responsibility of thenindividual upon which modern civilizationndepends. But, on the whole, henviews the grounding of political andnsocial philosophy on individual rights asna disaster. Systematic (bourgeois, evennif he does not use the term) individualismnreduces human beings to abstractionsnand accounts for much of thenwoeful disarray of our own times.nnnFor Fleming, our overriding problemsnconcern the price of the progressnwe enjoy: high rates of familyndissolution, ethical confusion and disintegration,nsensationalist and homogenizednmass culture, “and perhaps worstnof all an apparent inability to agree onnsocial priorities.” He admires the Atheniansnfor their sense of unity and familyncontinuity—blessings that no modernnsociety has known. This sense of unity,nemanating as it did from the strength ofnfamily and community, permitted themnto accept the state as a natural articulationnof their basic social relations, not asnan alien power. We moderns, in contrast,nhave invariably perceived the relationsnbetween the individual and thenstate as antagonistic. For us, in thenmanner of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor,nthe fundamental problem of politicalnphilosophy has been the balancenbetween freedom and order: what rightsnmust the individual relinquish for thengood of the collectivity?nFleming himself is too much a modernnfor that dilemma not to haunt hisnwork, but he proposes to resolve it byndenying the legitimacy of its premises.nFor him, the struggle between thenclaims of freedom and those of ordernderives not from nature but from ourn