This new translation of Edith Steinís 1925 phenomenology of the state is a solid example of Steinís style of phenomenological analysis and of the insight gained through this form of philosophy. Her clear and careful reasoning throughout the work stands in sharp contrast to contemporary infatuations with obtuse theoretical posturing. Certainly those who are weary of overly facile presumptions about the stateís inherently evil or good nature will find a bracing antidote in Steinís astute and even-handed argument for the limited but important good served by the state. To be sure, globalization in its many forms raises further questions that Stein could not have considered, yet her challenge to us to think carefully about whether the state has a valuable role to play may be even more timely in a context wherein the hegemony of state organization is no longer assumed. Perhaps of most interest to readers today, however, is her brief discussion of the conflict between divine sovereignty and state sovereignty. Steinís few pages on this topic provide a light that is rare in the heat of our current debates on the public role of religion.
Some readers may be interested in this book largely because Stein wrote it while considering Christian baptism. The fine introduction discussing the place of this work in Steinís life and intellectual development will be especially helpful to such readers. However, it is unlikely that any but the most thorough Stein scholars will find that this discussion of the state provides insight into Steinís religious thought or spiritual conversion.
Even though it is highly readable, I would not recommend using any more than a few sections of this book for undergraduate teaching. This is a rather dry and detailed work, and studentsí time would be better spent with the classic texts in political philosophy that Stein herself engages. Nevertheless, a class discussion might well be enlivened by reading a few pages of Steinís views on the state alongside those she critiques (especially Hobbes). Her discussion of divine vs. state sovereignty would also be a valuable addition to any undergraduate discussion of church-state relations.