Washington Practicum

Wilson Project


A Mission Statement

Francis Graham Wilson served as one of the central figures in the revival of interest in American and Latin American political thought during the middle of the twentieth century. While Wilson's scholarly writings were very extensive and his influence upon American political science profound, his contribution is not fully appreciated today. The Wilson Project has already published a collection of Wilson's scholarly essays, Political Philosophy and Cultural Renewal (Transaction/Rutgers, 2001), a new and expanded version of his classic work on Spanish political thought, Order and Legitimacy (Transaction/Rutgers, 2004), and a comprehensive intellectual biography is forthcoming (I.S.I. Books, 2014), as well as a new edition of his A Theory of Public Opinion (Transaction/Rutgers, 2013).

For Wilson our overwhelming practical and theoretical inheritance was established upon an appreciation of the necessary limitations of social and political life. Primary among the means of limitation was the need for societal and personal restraint when faced with the possibility of radical transformation. Human existence was essentially social. Moral and spiritual development necessitated interaction, restraint, and reinforcement that were most acutely experienced in a society constituted to embody these elements. In other words, the ethical life cannot be sustained outside of a social framework. While not rejecting a role for self-interest within the community, Wilson's political thought recognized the constant tension between need for some degree of societal unity and the needs of the individual. In the American and Latin American experience, Wilson found the appropriate model for balancing personal restraint and liberty.

Wilson made a lasting contribution to the study of politics. His affirmation of a republican inheritance could encourage contemporary students of politics to revisit articulations of diffused political authority. His worldview also serves as the philosophical foundation for a full-fledged theory of politics, and one that is of significance to a larger audience because it frames a notion of personal and societal restraint as an alternative to political partisanship and superficiality. For Wilson, restraint and concern for the common good were more important than the perpetuation of any particular regime or political party. In presenting Wilson's political philosophy in this fashion, the Project hopes that he might be appreciated as a thinker of great importance for contemporary politics.

The Wilson Project offers its grateful acknowledgment for the support of the Earhart Foundation, the Wilbur Foundation, Lee University, and Brewton-Parker College.