Samuel Gregg

Samuel Gregg is research director at the Acton Institute.

Walking in the Shadow of Globalism

In the wake of the rubble and death left strewn across Europe from the Atlantic to the Volga after two brutal wars in the space of 30 years, it was understandable that many Europeans wanted to severely tame the nation-state in 1945. What a stark domestication could portend, though, was hardly thought about. That supranational governmental organizations could ever threaten liberty, or become distinctly hostile toward national forms of political community per se, would have struck many people as far-fetched in the late 1940s. Political leaders at that time spoke in terms of a community of nations—not an international community. Today,…

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Within the Triangle of Politics, Philosophy, and Religion

One could hardly agree more with Paul Seaton when he writes, in the June Liberty Forum essay, that the elegant voice of Pierre Manent is one that we should listen to carefully these days, as our liberal democracies are on the defensive on both sides of the Atlantic, threatened by the rise of populism and…

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Manent, Vox Clamantis in Deserto

It has been a great pleasure for me to read Paul Seaton’s stimulating Liberty Forum essay dedicated to the political thought of Pierre Manent. With chagrin, I can report to Law and Liberty’s readers that Manent is better known and more read by American scholars than by French ones. Let this response to Seaton be an…

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Tocqueville Unplugged

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Though intellectuals write endlessly about politics, relatively few enter the fray directly. One exception to this rule was the author of Democracy in America (1835, 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). These texts effectively serve as bookends to Alexis de Tocqueville’s active, albeit unsuccessful career during the turbulent years of France’s July monarchy, the short-lived Second Republic, and finally the Second Empire established by that most enigmatic of political adventurers, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. Tocqueville served as a member of the Chamber of Deputies for much of King Louis-Philippe’s 18-year reign, a member of the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting…

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Is Globalization in Retreat? A Conversation with Samuel Gregg

World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 47th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute, returns to Liberty Law Talk to discuss the prospects for globalization in the wake of populist uprisings in many western democracies.

How Tradition Renews Civilization and Challenges Conservatives

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In our post-Enlightenment world, the word “tradition” often carries negative connotations. When coupled with adjectives like “regressive” and portrayed as that which impedes whatever has acquired the label of progress, the idea of tradition conveys a sense of being antithetical to humans’ wellbeing. Hence we encounter phrases like, “She’s rigid and traditional.” A rather different and more creative understanding of tradition is found in the writings of the German philosopher Josef Pieper (1904-1997). Perhaps most famous for his book Leisure as the Basis of Culture (1948), Pieper spent his life engaged not only in lecturing at the University of Münster, but…

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Reform, Reformations, and the West

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The year 1517 is considered one of those historical watersheds—like 1789, 1914, or 1968—at which Western societies took a radical turn away from hitherto prevailing political, economic, cultural, or religious settings. Such shifts, however, never come from nowhere. History’s time-bombs are invariably years in the making. The Reformation certainly didn’t simply spring from the mind of Martin Luther. But as a historical development, it has been the subject of polemics for 500 years: not just between Catholics and Protestants, but also, over the past century, between historians and sociologists with disparate views on how the modern world emerged. Any serious study…

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The Hamilton-Jefferson Clash: Stark but Intricate

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One of the late Forrest McDonald’s many contributions to our understanding of the American Founding was that he illustrated, often humorously, the human side of some extraordinary men. Though often taking classic Roman republicans as role models, the Founders were, like the rest of us, given to occasional pettiness. They lost their tempers. They often resorted to underhanded methods to get their way. Nor were they above scheming against each other. Yet McDonald’s books also showed that the generation that fought for independence and then established the United States were also an unusually talented and well-educated group. Even when not…

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An Enlightened Faith

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In his book Catholics and Unbelievers in Eighteenth Century France (1939), the historian R.R. Palmer wrote that on the whole, it must be confessed that the thought of the Age of Enlightenment, more than that of any equally important period in modern history, has been studied chiefly from writings which express only one side of the question. Palmer went some way to illustrating that there was considerable intellectual opposition to the philosophes, overwhelming from Catholics, which could not be dismissed as bloody-minded obscurantism. He also illustrated that Voltaire and others, for all their purported advocacy of tolerance, were not above using underhanded…

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Between Euro-Impotence and Jihadism

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Dramatic events often focus our minds on the dilemmas we would prefer to ignore. In writing Situation de la France to describe the predicament facing his native country and much of Western Europe, the French conservative philosopher Pierre Manent is unlikely to have anticipated the slaughter of 130 people in Paris by seven ISIS-aligned Muslims in November. But the timing of Manent’s short book on the political challenges associated with the presence of approximately 4.7 million Muslims in France (about 7.5 percent of its population) could not be more providential. In a nation’s life, there are moments that decisively change its…

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The Anglosphere: A Viable Global Actor or Simply a Culture?

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Given that I am of Scottish and English descent, grew up in Australia, did my doctorate in Britain, and now live and work in America, I am about as much a product of what is often called “the Anglosphere” as it gets. That such a sphere exists, culturally speaking, has never seemed in doubt to me, even beyond the common linguistic and historical connections to the British Isles of this grouping of nations. Though I attended Catholic schools in Australia, for example, we learnt far more about British history than that of the Catholic Church (or Australia for that matter). The…

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The Yanks Made Us Do It

The central question addressed by Samuel Gregg in his timely ruminations about the Anglosphere is how ready and willing its member nations are to “collectively shape the global order” through collaboration beyond that in which they already engage. His chief contention is that, while the nations of the Anglosphere jointly possess the necessary economic, demographic,…

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Snubbing the Anglosphere

Samuel Gregg rightly concludes that the political cooperation required for the nations of “the Anglosphere” to act as an effective international bloc rests upon choices by leaders. Cultural ties and longstanding security relationships open possibilities, but pursuing them requires conscious decision. To elaborate on Gregg’s analysis, one would have to consider what presuppositions and concerns…

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Crisis of Identity: Here, There, and in the Canuckosphere

Samuel Gregg’s thoughtful Liberty Forum essay on the prospects for a functional “Anglosphere” leaves me perplexed. He is no Pollyanna on the matter, but to my mind he underestimates some monumental intellectual and practical difficulties confronting statesmen who would try to move the English-speaking peoples from ad hoc cooperation in various areas, animated by real…

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What is Social Justice?

Lamartine in front of the Town Hall of Paris rejects the red flag on 25 February 1848.

Introduction Few terms have assumed more prominence in public discourse, especially that emanating from the left, in recent decades than “social justice.” It has now become part of the rhetorical apparatus of virtually all center-left, social democratic and labor political movements as well as central to the language of modern liberalism. In Western Europe, the term has also been embraced by more-than-a-few center-right, Christian Democrat, and conservative groupings, David Cameron’s Tory Party being a prominent example. Religious groups—most notably, but not exclusively, the Catholic Church—also utilize the expression extensively in their commentary on social and economic subjects. In the case of…

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Social Justice is the State

Samuel Gregg’s essay, “What is Social Justice?” is an important reminder that many different moral traditions – including the Catholic natural law tradition – may lay claim to the vocabulary of “social justice” and to an associated notion of the “common good.”  As articulated by Gregg, this natural law tradition can employ the language of…

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Social Justice Theory: A Solution in Search of a Problem

What is social justice? Sam Gregg’s essay answers this question by reviewing the origins and evolution of the concept. I find little to quibble with in Sam’s remarks and I am certainly in no position to make them a fortiori. My contribution will therefore be to offer an explanation for why social justice theory is both…

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