This volume is a collection of four essays and two shorter pieces - all linked to the theme of the title essay. That title piece, "A Theory of Republican Character - for a Democratic Age," is a study in political theory.
Taking his bearings from Aristotle's distinction in the Politics between the lowest form of mixed regime - a polity or republic - and the highest form of democracy, Wendell John Coats, Jr., attempts to establish a distinction within popular government between two kinds of characters or personalities, the republican and the democratic. The hallmark of the republican character is the practice of considering proposed laws and policies from the standpoint of their likely effects on both one's private interests and the general, authoritative context (i.e., a constitution) within which they occur and by which they are made possible.
Coats makes his argument for the importance of such republican generalists in even an advanced, specialized democracy - necessary if political balance is to be maintained.
The second essay, "Some Correspondences between Oakeshott's 'Civil Condition' and the Republican Tradition," appeared in a volume of The Political Science Reviewer devoted to the thought of the twentieth-century English political theorist Michael Oakeshott (1901-90). It is included in this collection for its exploration of convergences between republicanism and classical liberalism - and for its treatment of divergences of republicanism and classical liberalism from advanced democracy.
"American Democracy and the Punitive Use of Force - Requiem for the McNamara Model," the third piece in this volume, is relevant not merely for its general policy considerations (which are still meaningful after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War), but because it views the use of armed force in the context of the preservation of a system of political authority - a republican affinity - rather than primarily as an "economic" exercise in the infliction of increments of "pain."
The collection's fourth essay is entitled "Drama and Democracy." It attempts to show how the pedagogic use of drama in the college classroom can help to keep political ways of understanding alive and respectable - in the face of the onslaught of scientific modes of explanation.
Two shorter pieces are included as appendices. The first, a public address entitled "Two Views of Aristotle's Politics" is included here for its opposition to the claim of some historians that Aristotle can hardly be of political relevance today. The second appendix is a review of Michael Oakeshott's The Voice of Liberal Learning, edited by Timothy Fuller.
It is important here because Oakeshott's account of the liberal arts ideal of nurturing habits of comprehensive, individual judgment is typical of what Coats calls the "republican character."