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In this book, distinguished French philosopher Pierre Manent addresses a wide range of subjects, including the Machiavellian origins of modernity, Tocqueville's analysis of democracy, the political role of Christianity, the nature of totalitarianism, and the future of the nation-state. As a whole, the book constitutes a meditation on the nature of modern freedom and the permanent discontents which accompany it. Manent is particularly concerned with the effects of modern democracy on the maintenance and sustenance of substantial human ties. Modern Liberty and its Discontents is both an important contribution to an understanding of modern society, and a significant contribution to political philosophy in its own right.
Despite the fall of its ideological enemies—the political messianisms of communism and national socialism—democratic capitalism faces extraordinary challenges in the new millennium, argues City Journal editor and South Park Conservatives author Brian C. Anderson in this thought-provoking new book. Not only has a fanatical form of Islam distrupted the peace and prosperity of the postcommunist era, which some had wrongly heralded as a liberal-democratic “end of history”; our free societies also remain haunted by internal demons—egalitarian fantasies, moral libertinism, an arid and unsustainable secularism, a suicide of culture. Yet nothing ordains the triumph of these demons over the democratic capitalist prospect, Anderson believes. Drawing on a rich anti-utopian tradition of political thought, he defends the real achievements of the free society against an array of critics, ranging from Jean-Paul Sartre to British anti-market conservative John Gray to the quietly authoritarian social democrat John Rawls to the postmodern Marxist and one-time terrorist Antonio Negri. Anderson pays particularly close attention to the United States, the democratic capitalist nation par excellence, showing how it differs from other liberal democracies in its robust religiosity, vigorous civil society, and constitutionalism—all under threat from the American Left. Finally, Anderson explores the thought of some of the deepest anti-utopian thinkers who are friends—albeit critical ones—of the modern regime of liberty, including the brilliant French political theorist Pierre Manent and the godfather of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol. Crisply and vividly presented, Democratic Capitalism and Its Discontents is an essential guide to the conflicts of our time.
Steven B. Smith examines the concept of modernity, not as the end product of historical developments but as a state of mind. He explores modernism as a source of both pride and anxiety, suggesting that its most distinctive characteristics are the self-criticisms and doubts that accompany social and political progress. Providing profiles of the modern project s most powerful defenders and critics from Machiavelli and Spinoza to Saul Bellow and Isaiah Berlin this provocative work of philosophy and political science offers a novel perspective on what it means to be modern and why discontent and sometimes radical rejection are its inevitable by-products."
Camille Desmoulins, a journalist writing under the Montagnard regime of 1793-94, remarked that France's government had replaced "the language of democracy" with "the cold poison of fear, which paralyzed thought in the bottom of people's souls, and prevented it from pouring forth at the tribunal, or in writing." How this happened, how the Reign of Terror reached even into the realms of thought and language, is the subject of Caroline Weber's book, a revealing look into the paradoxical embargo on free expression that underpinned the Robespierrists' self-proclaimed "despotism of liberty" during the French Revolution. Weber examines Jean-Jacques Rousseau's and the Robespierrists' articulation of a series of initiatives designed to curtail and control the dissemination of alternative political and philosophical messages in the republic. Here Weber underscores the internal contradictions and limitations of an enterprise that promised universal freedom while oppressing particularism, and that railed against the very language that it was compelled to adopt as a principal political tool. The book then focuses on two eloquent contemporary critics of this phenomenon, Desmoulins and the Marquis de Sade, the infamous libertine author. Weber demonstrates how Desmoulins reconfigured the Montagnard regime's rhetoric to conjure up a political system based on tolerance, not terror, and how Sade deftly parodied the Robespierrists' brutality and hypocrisy, proposing a republic based on the ruthless elimination of dissident voices and on the unabashed celebration of despotism and bloodshed. A balanced account of how the "discourse of totality" actually restricted particular freedoms in the wake of theFrench Revolution, this book provides a highly original--and timely--exposition of the political uses of rhetoric and of the links between language and power.
By tracing core discontents, the essays restore the anxiety-ridden radical nature of Puritanism, helping to account for its force in the seventeenth century and the popular and scholarly interest that it continues to evoke. Innovative and challenging in scope and argument, the volume should be of interest to scholars of early modern British and American history, literature, culture, and religion."--BOOK JACKET.
Discusses the impact of Franklin Roosevelt, Robert Penn Warren, T. Harry Williams, Huey Long, Allard Lowenstein, and Oral Roberts upon American political culture
The "City of God" or the "City of Man"? This is the choice St. Augustine offered 1500 years ago--and according to Pierre Manent the modern West has decisively and irreversibly chosen the latter. In this subtle and wide-ranging book on the Western intellectual and political condition, Manent argues that the West has rejected the laws of God and of nature in a quest for human autonomy. But in declaring ourselves free and autonomous, he contends, we have, paradoxically, lost a sense of what it means to be human. In the first part of the book, Manent explores the development of the social sciences since the seventeenth century, portraying their growth as a sign of increasing human "self-consciousness." But as social scientists have sought to free us from the intellectual confines of the ancient world, he writes, they have embraced modes of analysis--economic, sociological, and historical--that treat only narrow aspects of the human condition and portray individuals as helpless victims of impersonal forces. As a result, we have lost all sense of human agency and of the unified human subject at the center of intellectual study. Politics and culture have come to be seen as mere foam on the tides of historical and social necessity. In the second half of the book, titled "Self-Affirmation," Manent examines how the West, having discovered freedom, then discovered arbitrary will and its dangers. With no shared touchstones or conceptions of virtue, for example, we have found it increasingly hard to communicate with each other. This is a striking contrast to the past, he writes, when even traditions as different as the Classical and the Christian held many of these conceptions in common. The result of these discoveries, according to Manent, is the disturbing rootlessness that characterizes our time. By gaining autonomy from external authority, we have lost a sense of what we are. In "giving birth" to ourselves, we have abandoned that which alone can nurture and sustain us. With penetrating insight and remarkable erudition, Manent offers a profound analysis of the confusions and contradictions at the heart of the modern condition.

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