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Home > New Book by Dr. Mitchell Probes Politics of Gratitude

New Book by Dr. Mitchell Probes Politics of Gratitude

January 3rd, 2013

By Chelsea Rankin.

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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          Dr. Mitchell's new book

Exploring the virtue of gratitude as a moral duty, Dr. Mark T. Mitchell’s new book entitled The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place and Community in a Global Age, proposes that, since life has been breathed into man, and since mankind has been given many gifts, gratitude should be nothing less than a required human character trait.

Mitchell, PHC’s professor of government and chairman of the Department of Government, says the idea for his book was birthed while delivering a lecture at a symposium, answering the question “Why I am Conservative.” He highlighted the aspect of gratitude, recalling a quote by the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset that modern man was largely characterized by a “radical ingratitude towards all that has made possible the ease of his existence.” As Mitchell pondered Gasset’s words, and wondered how gratitude could affect social and political structures, The Politics of Gratitude was birthed.

Dr. Mark Mitchell

Framing the politics of gratitude as a cultural and political idea rooted in stewardship, Mitchell observes: “One natural consequence of gratitude is a desire to treat responsibly the gifts we have been given. If we are proper stewards of the natural world, of our communities, of the political institutions and the culture we have inherited, we will be more humble. We will be more serious and intentional about conserving. We will be more willing to commit to the places to which we have been called. We will be more willing to acknowledge limits. Our lives will be characterized by reverence when we learn to pay attention to the ‘unbought graces’ that appear unbidden with every new day.”

Mitchell’s book recalls St. Paul’s admonition to Christians to “give thanks in everything.” In order to give thanks for everything, however, he says the object of praise must be God. Since God created life and is the source of all goodness, continual thanks should be given to Him, simply because we breathe and enjoy the world. Mitchell examines Psalm 100 as an instruction in gratitude to God.

“Praising God is a vocal expression of thanksgiving that is fitting for voiced creatures in the presence of the creator,” he writes in his book.

Throughout the modern era, however, Mitchell believes gratitude has largely become a forgotten virtue.

“I think this is due, at least in part, to a virulent kind of individualism that imagines that we are completely self-sufficient owing nothing to nobody,” he says. “However, it doesn't take much reflection to realize that we owe debts beyond our ability to repay. One way of responding to those debts is gratitude: to our parents, to our ancestors, to the natural world, and ultimately to God, for he is the ultimate source of all good gifts.”

Mitchell hopes Politics of Gratitude, in addition to his other books, will encourage readers to untangle themselves from life’s rapid pace and count the ways in which they have been blessed. He says the politics of gratitude stems from preserving and conserving what can be seen, felt, and touched directly in front of man, in order to create a better future for children and grandchildren.

“Tocqueville said that the habit of inattention is a persistent vice of the democratic mind,” he said. “I’d like to encourage people to simply pay attention. In so doing, I believe we will be more likely to see the good things all around us. We will be more disposed to enjoy a meal with family, to sit still and watch a sunset, to enjoy conversation with a friend, to daily breathe a prayer of thanksgiving to a God from who all blessings flow.”