We have come to the end of this little series of observations and reflections on the Resistance. Perhaps a little retrospect is in order, before concluding with Socrates.
Every so often our politics produces something relatively new, something worth watching and thinking about.
We can’t help it, we’re human, we necessarily have worldviews. Everybody does. The Resistance does too, rough hewn, in the aggregate, and tacit as it may be. Now it is time to take a look squarely at the Resistance’s main object of concern: Humanity itself. The Resistance declares itself “inclusive” and it hates “exclusion.” Its vision and its concern encompass all of humanity. But not all “humanisms” are created equal. But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Who is to say that Resistance humanism is unquestionable?
In a first installment (“Resistance, in the light of 1776”), following the lead of Pierre Manent, the Resistance came to sight as a way of looking at things characterized by 1) a binary view of legitimate and illegitimate views (in keeping with Hilary Clinton’s “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it” litany); 2) a quasi-religious cast (“political orthodoxy” and “heresy,” observed Manent); and 3) a novel form of democracy characterized by terms such as “diversity,” “multiculturalism,” and “inclusion,” but with its own blind spots and exclusions. As I put it: it is “rather exclusive in its inclusivity and monolithic in its view of diversity.”
At the beginning of his career, Pierre Manent spoke of political philosophy’s “healing light.” Likewise, he pointed to Cicero as a classical model of a philosophically informed citizen who could speak to princes and peoples alike about matters of public concern. His modern-day model was his teacher, Raymond Aron. After a period of apprenticeship, then a steady stream of works of political philosophy, Manent himself entered the civic conversation. Beyond Radical Secularism is his most recent contribution, appearing in French as Situation de France in 2015.
Goldilocks’ dictum about porridge is the gold standard for all sorts of things. It is also difficult to achieve, as Aristotle’s discussion of the noble mean, the mēson, in Book Two of the Nicomachean Ethics indicates. This is also the case, he explains in the Poetics, for artistic chef d’oeuvres, those works perfect in their genre, with nothing to be added or subtracted from their magnitude or proportions.
While not a work of dramatic fiction, but rather of searching philosophical analysis, French political philosopher Pierre Manent’s Metamorphoses of the City: On the Western Dynamic is one such work.
Roger Scruton is the greatest living conservative thinker. Well, that’s controversial, you might say. The other great thinkers around these days are more ambivalent about being conservative. Some libertarians, after all, think of themselves as liberals opposing themselves to conservatives. And the French philosopher Pierre Manent, like most American followers of Leo Strauss, thinks of himself as a conservative liberal. But the Buckinghamshire-born Scruton defines himself as a conservative, as opposed to a liberal, although he admits that it might be impossible to be conservative all the time.
A friend over at NRO’s Postmodern Conservative blog recently asked which contemporary French authors might profitably be read by American conservatives. As a Francophone who has translated French philosophers from this and previous centuries, I thought I’d contribute my two cents.
My criteria were: 1) What could help American conservatives better understand Europe, the evolving nature of liberal democracy, and the pathologies of the age, both abroad and at home? and 2) Who are the contemporary French authors who could speak to a fairly diverse cohort?
I link to an essay Peter Lawler and I have written now published in the current print edition of the Weekly Standard. We thought it worthwhile to sift through the good and the bad of the populist uprising against the EU. My fundamental conviction is that the EU is a political abstraction oriented to the interests of a meritocratic elite. Members of this cohort rule Europe without substantive accountability or political representation. As we say in the essay, the EU is a technocracy more than it is a democracy. The EU’s ruling class inspires no love or loyalty among Europeans for EU institutions. So a political reckoning, however long delayed and denied, will occur. The question is if it has already started, and the recent drubbing taken by mainstream parties in the UK and France, among other states, is an indication that it has.
In our February Liberty Law Forum Steven Grosby and Bill Dennis weigh in with their essays on the Institutions of American Liberty. Nick Capaldi's "To Make a Market" is our feature Books essay this week that reviews Lisa Herzog's Inventing the Market: Smith, Hegel, & Political Theory. Alberto Mingardi of Econ Lib: What consequences for the Swiss referendum? But is there a larger context at work here that the standard libertarian account misses? I think that's what Walter Russell Mead in Switzerland's primal scream is arguing. I suspect that to this return of borders, nation-state politics, thumbs in the eyes of transnational…