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Democracy Without Nations: The Fate of Self-Government in Europe (Crosscurrents) [Hardcover]

By Pierre Manent & Paul Seaton (Translator)
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Item description for Democracy Without Nations: The Fate of Self-Government in Europe (Crosscurrents) by Pierre Manent & Paul Seaton...

In this pithy and eloquent essay, the eminent French political philosopher Pierre Manent raises the alarm on the dangers attending the “depoliticization” of contemporary Europe—that is, the dangers of reducing the human world to the single desideratum of maximizing individual and social rights. Europeans, he suggests, increasingly wish to escape from the “national form” that welcomed and nourished democracy in the first place. In place of territorial democracy, which made possible liberty and self-government, Europeans have increasingly succumbed to a “confused idea of human unity” that effaces all the mediations between the individual and the “world.” In Democracy without Nations? Manent takes powerful aim at this new, distinctively European form of “democratic governance,” which neither truly represents nor governs the individuals whose rights it aims to maximize.
Manent’s book has implications far beyond intra-European debates about the future of European democracy. It provides the richest available reflection on the political forms that make the exercise of self-government possible. It shows that the consent of the individual must be balanced by a broader cultivation of that “communion”—both civic and religious—which informs every authentically human community. And it provides a comparative critique of the relationship between religion and politics in the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian traditions. Manent provocatively suggests, in fact, that the liberal state and the Christian nation go hand-in-hand. The “spiritual vacuity” that characterizes today’s secular Europe, he asserts, is ultimately untenable. Europeans therefore must come to terms with the Christian character of their nations if those nations—and if the moral substance of Western liberty—is to survive.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   109
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.76 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 15, 2007
Publisher   Intercollegiate Studies Institute
ISBN  1933859423  
ISBN13  9781933859422  

Availability  0 units.

More About Pierre Manent & Paul Seaton

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Pierre Manent is Director of Studies at L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

Pierre Manent has an academic affiliation as follows - L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris..

Pierre Manent has published or released items in the following series...
  1. New French Thought

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Government > Democracy
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Democracy Without Nations: The Fate of Self-Government in Europe (Crosscurrents)?

Good angle, unnecessarily obtuse  Jul 15, 2008
Manent's point is simple enough: Nation-states are the mechanisms that let like-minded people pursue their idea of happiness most efficiently. Even though they are both capitalist democracies rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition, France, for example, is a little different from Germany because French people are a little different from Germans. Makes good sense and is the best, and simplest, argument against further integration of the European Union. Or any other collection of similar states, for that matter. Already short, this book could have been half as long if Manent had resisted the urge to write in florid academic prose. Such a simple, elegant idea deserves wider dissemination than it will get in this form. Presented in AP style the same idea would reach many more people and, just maybe, foment the kind of action Manent seems to want.
Incisive  Jun 3, 2008
The French have so assiduously cultivated their knack for glib philosophizing that most Americans less credulous than professors of English literature have lost all interest in French intellectual life. They sense that the French are more interested in expounding novelties than truths.

This state of affairs is doubly unfortunate. That handful of contemporary French thinkers who are immune to the Parisian infatuation with fashion and fads are heirs to a grand tradition, including Montesquieu and Tocqueville. Moreover, the French language may be more conducive to lucid rationality than any other tongue.

Finally, as irritating as French arrogance can be, it's often rooted in a genuine and admirable national pride, a patriotism seldom found in other European countries in the 21st Century.

Among the most acute and sagacious French political philosophers of our era is Pierre Manent. He began his career as the assistant to Raymond Aron, the liberal intellectual who served during the 1960s as the tribune of common sense in a France in love with insane ideologies--epitomized by Aron's École nationale d'administration classmate and life-long rival, the pro-Communist existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

Over the last decade, Manent has turned from the study of the great thinkers of the past to grappling with new problems--above all the European grandees' attempt to suffocate national self-rule within the bureaucratic European Union.

Manent's forthcoming work from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is a short (103 pp) and highly readable book entitled Democracy Without Nations: The Fate of Self-Government in Europe, translated by Paul Seaton. It's of particular interest to readers and to anyone concerned with the National Question--whether the nation-state can survive as the political expression of a particular people.

Elite opposition to nations, and thus to self-government, is not confined merely to Europe. On September 11, 2001, the Melbourne Age reported on former President Bill Clinton's speech to an Australian confab:

"'[Clinton] discussed the immigration issue in Australia and he took a position on it,'" said Tom Hogan, president of Vignette Corporation, host of the exclusive forum. 'The president believes the world will be a better place if all borders are eliminated--from a trade perspective, from the viewpoint of economic development and in welcoming [the free movement of] people from other cultures and countries,' Mr. Hogan said. Mr. Clinton ... said he supported the ultimate wisdom of a borderless world for people and for trade."

Manent writes:

"In my view, the most deeply troubling information conveyed by the event ... was this: present-day humanity is marked by much more profound, much more intractable separations than we had thought. ... Before that fateful day we spoke so glibly of `differences' ... [which] could only be light and superficial, easy to combine, easy to welcome and accommodate in a reconciled humanity whose dazzling appearance would be enlivened by these differences. This was such an aesthetic vision--a tourist's view of human things!"

The contrast between Manent's French clarity and the intentionally opaque and woozy ideas rationalizing the growing dominance of the EU can be striking. He continues:

"Today, all of us--at least in Europe--are moved and even carried away by ... a passion for resemblance. It is no longer simply a matter of recognizing and respecting the humanity of each human being. We are required to see the other as the same as ourselves. And if we cannot stop ourselves from perceiving what is different about him, we reproach ourselves for doing so, as if it were a sin."

And yet, this requirement to "celebrate diversity" does not make us more interested in others:

"But what can `same' or even `similar' mean to someone who refuses to see what is different? ... Europeans immerse themselves in an indifference toward the world that their humanitarian endeavors hide less and less well."

Peace and prosperity in Europe have not unleashed a cultural golden age:

"Under a flashing neon sign proclaiming 'human unity,' contemporary Europeans would have humanity arrest all intellectual or spiritual movement in order to conduct a continual, interminable liturgy of self-adoration."

Manent offers a clear defense of the nation-state:

"... the city-state and the nation-state are the only two political forms that have been capable of realizing ... the intimate union of civilization and liberty."

To Manent, the nation-state is the optimal size, better than either the city-state or the empire, occupying "the middle ground between the puny and the immense, the petty and the limitless..."

Manent notes:

"... one cannot but admire the long duration of the European nation-state... Most of our nations are recognizable over the course of at least seven or eight centuries. ... the European nations, during the course of centuries, knew how to invent new, unprecedented political instruments that would allow the adventure to continue."

According to Manent:

"The sovereign state and representative government are the two great artifices that have allowed us to accommodate huge masses of human beings within an order of civilization and liberty."

Under the EU, however, "This strange contemporary 'depression' of the most inventive peoples in history, until recently the most capable of renewing themselves" has led to a new form of government where "the state is less and less sovereign, and government is less and less representative. ... The time of enlightened despotism has returned."

But are the new little despots all that enlightened? Or are they hamstrung by the very political correctness that they use to make their own power seem inevitable?

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