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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.
Commentators in popular media and professional publications alike have decried the extent to which civility, civic virtue, tolerance, and socio-cultural unity have declined in modern liberal societies. In this volume, contributors from philosophy and political science discuss this dilemma while exploring the nature of civil society, the conflict between individual liberty and the common good, and the role of law and government policy in weaving the threads of the social fabric. Here are provocative insights from such distinguished voices as Joan McGregor, Patricia Smith, and Wade Robison, integrating many of the key issues in contemporary political and legal philosophy while representing viewpoints ranging from Rawlsian liberalism to communitarianism, libertarianism to republicanism. All of the contributors share a dedication to fundamental liberal values and advocate respect for others, but they pointedly disagree on the practical implications of such beliefs for political and legal policy. While not unconcerned with private morality, these essays primarily address public issues—largely in an American context—including economic, legal, and political policies. They focus on the constituent elements of civility and civic virtue, problems surrounding civil rights and the promotion of tolerance, appropriate social and legal responses to increasing social fragmentation, and applied issues such as hate crimes, speech codes, and "bad Samaritan" laws. Civility and Its Discontents is a lively collection in which readers will find stimulating debate over the requirements of good citizenship, the demarcation between public and private, and the accurate characterization of liberal democratic ideals and realities. It transcends current mass appeals to patriotism and civic responsibility by asking what it is to live in a truly civil society, forming a timely and accessible collection for students--and provocative reading for all interested in our collective future.
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.
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.
Discusses the impact of Franklin Roosevelt, Robert Penn Warren, T. Harry Williams, Huey Long, Allard Lowenstein, and Oral Roberts upon American political culture
While the term acedia may be unfamiliar, the vice, usually translated as sloth, is all too common. Sloth is not mere laziness, however, but a disgust with reality, a loathing of our call to be friends with God, and a spiteful hatred of place and life itself. As described by Josef Pieper, the slothful person does not "want to be as God wants him to be, and that ultimately means he does not wish to be what he really, fundamentally is." Sloth is a hellish despair. Our own culture is deeply infected, choosing a destructive freedom rather than the good work for which God created us. Acedia and Its Discontents resists despair, calling us to reconfigure our imaginations and practices in deep love of the life and work given by God. By feasting, keeping sabbath, and working well, we learn to see the world as enchanting, beautiful, and good--just as God sees it. "In the arid wasteland that is academic writing, amid the wider desert that is modern secular thought, R. J. Snell's book on acedia is an oasis of flowers and fruit and fresh water. Professor Snell reminds us that man must never be made subordinate to work, nor even to the empty 'vacations' that are but interruptions in work. Like his great predecessors Josef Pieper, Jacques Maritain, Max Picard, Romano Guardini, and Pope John Paul II, he diagnoses the besetting disease of our time--spiritual torpor--and prescribes as a remedy the joyful celebration of the Sabbath. A stupendous book, filled with the happiness of wonder."--ANTHONY ESOLEN, author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child "A whole book about just one vice, 'sloth'? Ah, but this book is different-and devastating. It exposes a deeply hidden and deeply destructive fundamental attitude that pervades our culture, an attitude that comes not just from the flesh (laziness) or from the world (world-weariness, cynicism), but from the Devil: disgust and rebellion toward Being itself, natural as well as supernatural. This is the 'noonday devil' that great saints have labelled 'sloth.' Know your enemy. Read this book "--PETER KREEFT, author of Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas "Acedia--the sin of sloth, so often confused with laziness--is the most overlooked but widespread illness of the modern age; the emptiness under the mask of the world's frantic activity. R.J. Snell helps us see why this is so and what Christians can do about it with elegant, penetrating insight. This is a terrific book about a badly misunderstood 'deadly sin' and its antidotes."--CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia "Our modern Empire of Desire manufactures endless appetite while simultaneously denying that anything is objectively good, beautiful, or desirable. The result is not great yearning or passion, but acedia or sloth, a pervasive 'noonday demon' which prowls about our culture like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. In this learned study, R.J. Snell draws on the vast spiritual and intellectual resources of the Christian tradition to diagnose the deep structure of our contemporary nihilism, exposing this demon and its far-reaching effects with elegance and profundity and thereby providing the weapons necessary to slay it. This is a timely and important book."--MICHAEL HANBY, author of No God, No Science: Theology, Cosmology, Biology R. J. SNELL is professor of philosophy at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA, and executive director of the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good. His recent books include Authentic Cosmopolitanism (with Steve Cone) and The Perspective of Love: Natural Law in a New Mode. He and his wife have four young children.

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