Michael Novak, Requiescat in pace.

From his daughter, Jana Novak:

As many of you may have heard by now, dad aka Michael Novak, died peacefully early this morning from complications from colon cancer, at his apartment in DC surrounded by family.

Before he died ... Michael Novak was heard to say, repeatedly, to everyone who came to say goodbye, "God loves you and you must love one another, that is all that matters." - Robert Royal

Reflections on Novak’s passing

[This post will be continually updated in the weeks to come]

Michael Novak: Biographical Information

Michael Novak - Columns and Articles in CRISIS Magazine

Interviews with Michael Novak

Michael Novak on the Hunger for Liberty -- an interview with Zenit.org.
  1. Part 1: On the Need for Morality to Safeguard Freedom
  2. Part 2: The Clash of Civilizations
  3. Part 3: On Europe's Lost Desire for Freedom

Books by Michael Novak

Social Justice Isn't What You Think It Is
Encounter Books (November 3, 2015). 336 pages.
What is social justice? For Friedrich Hayek, it was a mirage—a meaningless, ideological, incoherent, vacuous cliché. He believed the term should be avoided, abandoned, and allowed to die a natural death. For its proponents, social justice is a catchall term that can be used to justify any progressive-sounding government program. It endures because it venerates its champions and brands its opponents as supporters of social injustice, and thus as enemies of humankind. As an ideological marker, social justice always works best when it is not too sharply defined.

In Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is, Michael Novak and Paul Adams seek to clarify the true meaning of social justice and to rescue it from its ideological captors. In examining figures ranging from Antonio Rosmini, Abraham Lincoln, and Hayek, to Popes Leo XIII, John Paul II, and Francis, the authors reveal that social justice is not a synonym for “progressive” government as we have come to believe. Rather, it is a virtue rooted in Catholic social teaching and developed as an alternative to the unchecked power of the state. Almost all social workers see themselves as progressives, not conservatives. Yet many of their “best practices” aim to empower families and local communities. They stress not individual or state, but the vast social space between them. Left and right surprisingly meet.

In this surprising reintroduction of its original intention, social justice represents an immensely powerful virtue for nurturing personal responsibility and building the human communities that can counter the widespread surrender to an ever-growing state.

Catholic Ethic and the Spirit Of Capitalism
Free Press (November 28, 2015). 352 pages.
Any vision of capitalism's future prospects must take into account the powerful cultural influence Catholicism has exercised throughout the world. The Church had for generations been reluctant to come to terms with capitalism, but, as Michael Novak argues in this important book, a hundred-year-long debate within the Church has yielded a richer and more humane vision of capitalism than that described in Max Weber's classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Novak notes that the influential Catholic intellectuals who, early in this century saw through Weber's eyes an economic system marked by ruthless individualism and cold calculation had misread the reality. For, as history has shown, the lived experience of capitalism has depended to a far greater extent than they had realized on a culture characterized by opportunity, cooperative effort, social initiative, creativity, and invention. Drawing on the major works of modern Papal thought, Novak demonstrates how the Catholic tradition has come to reflect this richer interpretation of capitalist culture. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII condemned socialism as a futile system, but also severely criticized existing market systems. In 1991, John Paul II surprised many by conditionally proposing "a business economy, a market economy, or simply free economy" as a model for Eastern Europe and the Third World. Novak notes that as early as 1963, this future Pope had signaled his commitment to liberty. Later, as Archbishop of Krakow, he stressed the "creative subjectivity" of workers, made by God in His image as co-creators. Now, as Pope, he calls for economic institutions worthy of a creative people, and for political and cultural reformsattuned to a new "human ecology" of family and work. Novak offers an original and penetrating conception of social justice, rescuing it as a personal virtue necessary for social activism. Since Pius XI made this idea canonical in 1931, the term has been rejected by the Right as an oxymoron and misused by the Left as a party platform. Novak applies this newly formulated notion of social justice to the urgent worldwide problems of ethnicity, race, and poverty. His fresh rethinking of the Catholic ethic comes just in time to challenge citizens in those two large and historically Catholic regions, Eastern Europe and Latin America, now taking their first steps as market economies, as well as those of us in the West seeking a realistic moral vision.
Writing from Left to Right: My Journey from Liberal to Conservative
Image; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (September 3, 2013). 336 pages.
"In heavy seas, to stay on course it is indispensable to lean hard left at times, then hard right. The important thing is to have the courage to follow your intellect. Wherever the evidence leads. To the left or to the right." –Michael Novak

Engagingly, writing as if to old friends and foes, Michael Novak shows how Providence (not deliberate choice) placed him in the middle of many crucial events of his time: a month in wartime Vietnam, the student riots of the 1960s, the Reagan revolution, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Bill Clinton's welfare reform, and the struggles for human rights in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also spent fascinating days, sometimes longer, with inspiring leaders like Sargent Shriver, Bobby Kennedy, George McGovern, Jack Kemp, Václav Havel, President Reagan, Lady Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II, who helped shape—and reshape—his political views.

Yet through it all, as Novak’s sharply etched memoir shows, his focus on helping the poor and defending universal human rights remained constant; he gradually came to see building small businesses and envy-free democracies as the only realistic way to build free societies. Without economic growth from the bottom up, democracies are not stable. Without protections for liberties of conscience and economic creativity, democracies will fail. Free societies need three liberties in one: economic liberty, political liberty, and liberty of spirit.

Business as a Calling
Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (April 6, 2013). 256 pages. Why do we work so hard at our jobs, day after day? Why is a job well done important to us? We know there is more to a career than money and prestige, but what exactly do we mean by "fulfillment"? These are old but important questions. They belong with some newly discovered ones: Why are people in business more religious than the population as a whole? What do people of business know, and what do they do, that anchors their faith? In this ground-breaking and inspiring book, Michael Novak ties together these crucial questions by explaining the meaning of work as a vocation. Work should be more than just a job -- it should be a calling.

This book explains an important part of our lives in a new way, and readers will instantly recognize themselves in its pages. A larger proportion than ever before of the world's Christians, Jews, and other peoples of faith are spending their working lives in business. Business is a profession worthy of a person's highest ideals and aspirations, fraught with moral possibilities both of great good and of great evil. Novak takes on agonizing problems, such as downsizing, the tradeoffs that must sometimes be faced between profits and human rights, and the pitfalls of philanthropy. He also examines the daily questions of how an honest day's work contributes to the good of many people, both close at hand and far away. Our work connects us with one another. It also makes possible the universal advance out of poverty, and it is an essential prerequisite of democracy and the institutions of civil society. This book is a spiritual feast, for everyone who wants to examine how to make a life through making a living.

The Myth of Romantic Love and Other Essays
Transaction Publishers; 1 edition (January 23, 2013). 208 pages.
Written by noted Catholic philosopher Michael Novak, the selections in The Myth of Romantic Love and Other Essays highlight the arc of his intellectual career. Collectively demonstrating the fundamental unity of Novak’s work, the sixteen essays in this book span a broad range of political, economic, and social topics.

The selections offer clarity of thinking for the sake of concrete ends. For example, "The Myth of Romantic Love," the chapter from which the title of this work is drawn, sharply distinguishes the "love" that popular culture portrays from the true Christian vision of love. And "The Family out of Favor" argues, "if things go well with the family, life is worth living; when the family falters, life falls apart." Thus, true Christian love manifest in marriage and family life is a greater resource for civilized society than any other institution.

Although this collection shows that Novak’s viewpoints did evolve over time, he remains a thinker that is clearly rooted in the ancient and medieval Catholic tradition. From his discussions of gender relations, to economics, culture, and politics, his perspective honors the primacy of man and his immediate experience, and thereby ultimately glorifies the Creator. Novak’s writing will infuriate some readers, and inspire many others—but both comrades-in-arms and intellectual opponents will find the clarity and intensity of his writings undeniable.

Living the Call: An Introduction to the Lay Vocation
Encounter Books (September 13, 2011). 215 pages.
Since 1965 the number of priests in the United States has fallen by some 30,000. But over that same time period, more than 30,000 laypeople have come into the employ of parishes and other Church institutions. Laypeople have stepped up to serve in a variety of new ministries, and they are relieving their pastors of many administrative burdens, enabling them to focus on their proper priestly duties. Lay teachers now outnumber nuns, brothers, and priests in Catholic schools by at least 19 to 1. In the history of the Church, laypeople have never been asked to do so much.

William E. Simon, Jr. and Michael Novak call attention to this great shift in Living the Call. The first part of the book tells the personal stories of nine faithful laypeople now serving the Church in new and diverse ways. Simon and Novak’s insight is that more and more who work in the Church feel the need to shape their lives in a new way, matched to their different needs and adjusted to the new base of knowledge about the world with which they begin. In response to this need, the second part of Living the Call offers practical examples and reflections on a number of themes, including entering into the presence of God and learning different forms of prayer, reading that refreshes the mind and deepens the soul, and the graces of the sacraments and how being a spouse contributes to holiness.

No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers
Doubleday Religion; First Edition edition (August 5, 2008). 338 pages.
Surveying the contemporary religious landscape, the division between atheist and believer seems stark. However, having long struggled to understand the purpose of life and the meaning of suffering, Michael Novak finds the reality of spiritual life far different from the rhetorical war presented by bestselling atheists and the defenders of the faith who oppose them.

In No One Sees God, Novak brilliantly recasts the tired debate pitting faith against reason. Both the atheist and the believer experience the same “dark night” in which God’s presence seems absent, he argues, and the conflict between faith and doubt stems not from objective differences, but from divergent attitudes toward the unknown. Drawing from his lifelong passion for philosophy and his personal struggles with belief, he shows that, far from being irrational, the spiritual perspective actually provides the most satisfying answers to the eternal questions of meaning. Faith is a challenge at times, but it nonetheless offers the only fully coherent response to the human experience.

Ultimately, No One Sees God offers believers and unbelievers the opportunity to find common ground by acknowledging the complicated reality of the human struggle with doubt. Novak provides a stirring defense of the Christian worldview, while sidestepping the shrill tone that so often characterizes the discussion of faith, and given the challenges faced in the present age, all who value liberty will find hope in his new way of conversing.

Washington's God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country
Basic Books; 1st edition (February 12, 2007). 304 pages.
In Washington's God, Michael Novak-one of America's leading neoconservative pundits-and his daughter, Jana, uncover George Washington's religious life. Finally the record is set straight on the most thoroughly misunderstood aspect of Washington's life. The Novaks focus on Washington's strong trust in divine Providence and see this belief as providing the unifying narrative to his monumental life.
The Universal Hunger for Liberty: Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable
Basic Books (October 25, 2004). 284 pages.
Starting with 9/11 and continuing with the struggle for peace in Iraq, the West has been forced to interact more fully with the civilization of Islam. In The Universal Hunger for Liberty, statesman and award-winning author Michael Novak sets forth a new model for facing this challenge-and for healing a still violently fractured world. In place of ongoing conflict, he offers a surprisingly optimistic vision of how the concept of fundamental human liberty-shared by the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions-can heal our cultural, economic, and political differences.
On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding
Encounter Books; Expanded ed. edition (August 1, 2003). 218 pages.
The leaders of the American Revolution, unlike the leaders of the French revolution, did not set out to erase religion. Indeed, the very first act of the Continental Congress was to pray to Divine Providence in the face of the British bombardment of Boston. In establishing a new model of self-government, the Founders believed that they were not only acting according to reason and common sense, but also obeying a religious duty. Benjamin Franklin proposed as their motto: “Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.”

In telling the story of the forgotten—if not deliberately ignored—role of faith in America’s beginnings, Michael Novak probes the innermost religious conviction of Washington, Jefferson, Madison and other of our Founders. He shows that while the American eagle could not have taken flight without the empirical turn of mind embodied in John Locke’s teaching on the ends of government and the consent of the governed, the men who made America also believed that liberty depends as much on faith as on reason.

Three in One: Essays on Democratic Capitalism, 1976-2000
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (April 11, 2001). 368 pages.
Throughout his many writings, Michael Novak, one of the leading Catholic social theorists of our times, has urged us to adopt a tripartite system of democratic capitalism including a market economy, a democratic polity, and a moral-cultural system that would nourish the values and virtues on which free societies depend. Three in One introduces the reader to Novak's portrait of democratic capitalism.
On Cultivating Liberty: Reflections on Moral Ecology
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (January 7, 1999). 368 pages.
Few writers have covered the intellectual terrain traversed by Michael Novak, who has written on theology, philosophy, political economy, and business theory. This book brings together many of Novak's crucial essays on "moral ecology": the ethos that must be cultivated and preserved if liberal democratic societies are to survive. Novak argues in defense of the free and virtuous society by examining the family, welfare reform, free markets, self-government, and the American founding. A series of remarkable intellectual studies on figures such as Jacques Maritain, St. Thomas Aquinas, and John Courtney Murray, along with an autobiographical essay by Novak and an introduction by Brian C. Anderson, complete On Cultivating Liberty, an indispensable book for anyone concerned about the future of the democratic project as we enter the third millennium.
Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughters Questions About God
Atria; Edition Unstated edition (September 1, 1998). 336 pages.
A Catholic theologian and his skeptical young daughter record their attempts to reach a shared understanding of God, faith, the Catholic Church, and morality.

This book all started with a fax. As the prolific author of numerous titles (The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism; Business as a Moral Calling; etc.), former politician and theologian Michael Novak is no stranger to answering challenges regarding his faith in relation to the world of politics and philosophy. However, when he receives a lengthy fax from his recent college graduate daughter, Jana, this father's skill in communication is put to the test. Jana Novak, a writer and poet, ponders the deep issues of faith in modern society. She relates questions and concerns to her father through candid, sincere requests for evidence in helping determine what part God and religion will play in her life. The book, written in a Q&A format, allows both Novaks to bring forth fresh insights and beg the reader to consider the difficulties of living out one's faith in a cynical, amoral society. Jana poses her faxed questions by focusing first on the foundations of religion in general. Why, she asks, "Does religion matter?" "Why so many different religions?" "What is God like?" Michael Novak's second series of responses stresses the particulars of religious experience. Jana wonders, "Why is our family Catholic?" "Must I take the Bible literally?" Finally, Jana considers the practicalities of faith. "What is Christian sexual love?" "What about abortion?" and "Do I need to be a Mother Theresa?" Interspersed throughout this dialogue between father and daughter are the writings of C.S. Lewis and other Christian writers who address the struggle between faith and doubt. Although Jana's questions about life, faith and God are often difficult to answer in simple statements, Michael Novak does an excellent job of creating a "learning atmosphere" for his daughter by providing her with a solid foundation of biblical principles and Catholic traditions to contemplate. -- Publishers Weekly

The Experience of Nothingness
Transaction Publishers; 1 edition (January 1, 1997). 145 pages.
In The Experience of Nothingness, Michael Novak has two objectives. First, he shows the paths by which the experience of nothingness is becoming common among all those who live in free societies. Second, he details the various experiences that lead to the nothingness point of view. Most discussions of these matters have been so implicated in the European experience that the term "nihilism" has a European ring. Novak, however, articulates this experience of formlessness in an American context.

In his new introduction, the author lists four requirements that must be met by an individual in order for the experience of nothingness to emerge: a commitment to honesty, a commitment to courage, recognition of how widespread the experience of nothingness is, and a virtue of will. Novak writes that these principles are what guide self-described philosophical nihilists. But many people simply borrow the nihilistic conclusions without observing the moral commitments to them. For this reason Novak believes that nihilism is fraudulent as a theory intended to explain the experience of nothingness. Nihilism in practice, he maintains, often results in a form of intolerance. The Experience of Nothingness is a work that will cause many scholars to rethink their beliefs. It should be read by philosophers, theologians, sociologists, political theorists, and cultural historians.

The Fire of Invention: Civil Society and the Future of the Corporation
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (January 28, 1997). 194 pages.
Many Americans today consider the corporation to be the number one public enemy. Downsizing, corporate greed, an exclusive focus on the needs of shareholders at the expense of workers-the list of complaints from the left and right is long and growing. In this penetrating and insightful book, Michael Novak, regarded by some as America's foremost social thinker, and author of such internationally acclaimed bestsellers as The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and Business as a Calling, argues that these critics ask the corporation to be something it is not, and they overlook the functions that it performs best-the cultivation of civil society, the fortification of democracy, and the elevation of the poor. Borrowing a phrase from Abraham Lincoln, Novak shows how the corporation weds the fire of invention to the fuel of interest to generate a creative, dynamic, and civic-minded citizenry.
Belief and Unbelief: A Philosophy of Self-Knowledge (3rd Edition)
Transaction Publishers; 3 edition (January 1, 1994). 241 pages.
Joy of Sports, Revised: Endzones, Bases, Baskets, Balls, and the Consecration of the American Spirit
Madison Books; Revised ed. edition (November 12, 1993). 398 pages.
Will It Liberate? : Questions about Liberation Theology
Madison Books (June 19, 1991). 311 pages.
The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
Madison Books; Revised edition (December 29, 1990). 460 pages.
Free Persons and the Common Good
Madison Books; 1st Edition edition (June 1, 1988) 233 pages.
This work seeks to bridge the gap between liberalism and the Catholic notion of the "common good" by showing that the liberal tradition includes a vision of the common good, a vision both historically original and crucial to its defense of the human person. Too often, the liberal tradition is discussed wholly in terms of the individual, the rational economic agent, self-interest, and something like the utilitarian calculus. On the other side, too often the classical view of the common good is presented as though it did not respect the freedom of the human person, the rights of the individual, and the unique properties of the many different spheres through which the common good is cumulatively realized. Yet the liberal tradition has in fact greatly expanded and enriched the concept of the common good. And the Catholic tradition - through its distinctive concepts of the person, will, self-deception, virtue, practical wisdom, "the dark night of the soul," and insight itself - has thickened and enriched our under-standing of the individual. On matters of institutional realism, the liberal tradition has made discoveries that the Catholic tradition sorely needs; reciprocally, regarding certain philosophical-theological conceptions, the Catholic tradition has achieved some insights (e.g., into the nature of the human person, the human community, and mediating institutions) in which many in the liberal intellectual tradition are now expressing interest. The two traditions need each other, each being weaker where the other is stronger. -- Michael Novak
Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics

Articles on Michael Novak

Book Reviews by Michael Novak

  • What "Dark Ages"?. Review of The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, by Rodney Stark. The New Criterion February 1, 2006.
  • In Defense of Globalization. Review of the book by agdish Bhagwati (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • The Last Liberal. Review of Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver, by Scott Stossel. Weekly Standard May 24, 2004.
  • Is It Bad Culture or Bad Laws That Keep Some Countries Poor?, by Michael Novak. Review of Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, edited by Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington. The Weekly Standard. January 15, 2001.
  • An Authentic Modernity. Review of The Ethics of Authenticity, by Charles Taylor. (Harvard University Press). First Things 33 (May 1993): 40-42.
  • A Smith For All Seasons. Review of Adam Smith in His Time and Ours: Designing the Decent Society, by Jerry Z. Muller. (Free Press). First Things 35 (August/September 1993): 52-55.
  • The Secularist Faith. Review of The Wealth & Poverty of Nations, by David S. Landes (Norton). First Things 85 (August/September 1998): 58-61.
  • A Good Life. Review of The Life of Thomas More, by Peter Ackroyd. The Weekly Standard. Dec. 28, 1998.

Michael Novak: Washington's God

Washington has long been viewed as the patron saint of secular government, but in Washington's God, Michael Novak and his daughter, Jana, reveal that it was Washington's strong faith in divine Providence that gave meaning and force to his monumental life. Narrowly escaping a British trap during the Battle of Brooklyn, Washington didn't credit his survival to courage or tactical expertise; he blamed himself for marching his men into certain doom and marveled at the Providence that delivered them. Throughout his career, Washington held fast to the conviction that America's liberty was dependent on our faithfulness to God's will and our trust in Providence.

Washington's God shows Washington not only as a man of resource, strength, and virtue, but also as a man with deeply held religious values. This new presentation of Washington-as a man whose religion guided his governance-will bring him into today's debates about the role of faith in government and will challenge everything we thought we knew about the inner life of the father of our country.


Related Discussion

Michael Novak on the Moral and Religious Principles of America's Founding

On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding
Encounter Books (August 2001).

The U.S. isn't officially Christian, but Novak demonstrates that the men who created it rooted the country conceptually in the Bible. The characterizations of God in the Declaration of Independence derive from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), probably deliberately, because all Christian denominations accepted them. Faith in God was ubiquitous among the founders, who regarded religion as necessary to maintain a just and equitable society. Only a moral (because religious) society would foster responsible citizens; pursuing freedom without religion, individuals would create a chaos of competing self-interests. Finally, the founders' conception of rights derived more from Acquinas than from Enlightenment philosophers. Quoting so often from the founders and their influences that this is practically a documentary history, Novak is compelling on those major propositions and others. He concludes by answering 10 common questions about religion and the founders, and he appends comments on some lesser-known important founders and the Revolution's great fellow traveler, Thomas Paine, who believed in God despite disapproving all the religions he knew. Hard but invaluably informative reading. [Source: Ray Olson, Booklist]

Michael Novak on Pope John Paul II & the election of Pope Benedict XVI

Michael Novak on Democratic Capitalism and Social Justice

Michael Novak on Human Dignity and Religious Freedom