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The Second Birth

On the Political Beginnings of Human Existence

Most scholars link the origin of politics to the formation of human societies, but in this innovative work, Tilo Schabert takes it even further back: to our very births. Drawing on mythical, philosophical, religious, and political thought from around the globe—including America, Europe, the Middle East, and China—The Second Birth proposes a transhistorical and transcultural theory of politics rooted in political cosmology. With impressive erudition, Schabert explores the physical fundamentals of political life, unveiling a profound new insight: our bodies actually teach us politics.
Schabert traces different figurations of power inherent to our singular existence, things such as numbers, time, thought, and desire, showing how they render our lives political ones—and, thus, how politics exists in us individually, long before it plays a role in the establishment of societies and institutions. Through these figurations of power, Schabert argues, we learn how to institute our own government within the political forces that already surround us—to create our own world within the one into which we have been born. In a stunning vision of human agency, this book ultimately sketches a political cosmos in which we are all builders, in which we can be at once political and free. 

200 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


"Lest anyone misunderstand, this is an essay written by a genuine lover of wisdom for those others who take similar care to cultivate an attitude of love toward truth, goodness, justice and beauty wherever they may be encountered. It is a book that will resonate within anyone who, to paraphrase Wittgenstein, is prepared to put the question marks down deeply enough when thinking about the political dimension of human reality; and why human reality is inevitably political. . . . An evocative invocation of the dignity of humanity that the philosopher will relish as she/he moves through the book."

Voegelin View

“Covers a vast amount of terrain: Plato, early Islamic texts, and major Chinese classics all receive attention. . . . Schabert’s book is a provocative and rewarding one.”


"Breathes new life into Aristotle’s poiesis. It makes a logical space, echoing Wittgenstein, for the power of the individual in a world of bodies. It revives a concern for Strauss’s theological political predicament. It affords an alternative to the political theology of Carl Schmitt: a theological politics. It challenges the modern polis to find a 'better, ‘more beautiful’ way'."


“Schabert’s interest in political creativity or the creativity of political power began with his 1989 study of Boston mayor Kevin White. It continued in his masterly 2002 account of the role of François Mitterrand in the unification of Germany. In his latest book, Schabert looks not at specific examples of political creativity but at the problem of the foundation of creativity in the political form of human existence. Schabert understands politics as creative action, an uncaused initiative that provides human beings with their unique dignity. His narrative combines a subtle analytic exegesis of a wide range of textual materials with a meditative essay of the nature of political reality. The result is political science of the very highest order.”

Barry Cooper, University of Calgary

“Schabert presents an inspiring, learned, wise, and impassioned call to return to the basic facts of human existence, to the basic wisdom of the (s)ages, and to an understanding of politics as a necessary and immanent expression of human creativity. This is Schabert’s starting point for a ‘Second Birth.’ His turn to the thoughtful and experienced origins of contemporary civilization is at once radical and conservative: he evokes the reason of philosophy and the conviction of faith, the freedom of thought and the call of the divine, the crisis of the political hour and the hope of eternal being. I enjoyed this short and wonderfully rich ‘feast of thought.’ Indeed, I found myself processing Schabert’s profound meditation on being and the creativity of politics (and arguing with it!) long after reading this unique rendering of the ‘Gestalt of humanity.’”

Dan Avnon, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“Rarely do we find in contemporary political science the courage to consider and discuss the preconditions and the particularity of the political existence of human beings. One of the few who muster this courage is Tilo Schabert.”

Der Staat, on the German edition

“This masterly essay in political foundations unfolds in a dialogue with a huge range of Greco-Roman, Islamic, and classic Chinese authors too rich to summarize here, but it has also emerged from a lifetime of keen observation of contemporary politics.”

Review of Politics, on the German edition

Table of Contents


At the Start
In Number
In Body
In Action
In Consciousness
In Grace
In the Divine
In Thought
In Creation
In Eros
In Time
In Law
In Freedom


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