The past fifteen years in France have seen a remarkable flourishing of new work in political philosophy. This anthology brings into English for the first time essays by some of the best young French political thinkers writing today, including Marcel Gauchet, Pierre Manent, Luc Ferry, and Alain Renaut. The central theme of these essays is liberal democracy: its nature, its development, its problems, its fundamental legitimacy. Although these themes are familiar to American and British readers, the French approach to them--which is profoundly historical and rooted in the tradition of continental philosophy--is quite different from our customary one.
Included in this collection is a series of reconsiderations of French critics of liberal society (Lévi-Strauss, Foucault, Bourdieu) and of classical European liberals (Kant, Constant, Tocqueville). The continuing controversies over the nature of the modern era and the place of religion within it play a central role throughout the collection. The book includes a debate on the foundations of human rights and on the nature of a liberal political order. The concluding section presents some of the new sociological writing on modern individualism, its pleasures and its discontents. An introduction by Mark Lilla provides the historical background to the revival of French political thought about liberalism, and offers an analysis of what American and English readers might learn from it.
Originally published in 1994.
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"After World War II, most French intellectuals dismissed liberalism and pluralism. . . . Since around 1980, however, several younger philosophers have thought liberalism worthy of renewed attention, and Lilla's anthology ably presents a selection of their views. . . . a useful anthology."--Library Journal
"In this volume, Luc Ferry, Alain Renaut, Blandine Kriegel and Stephane Rials defend human rights against the charge that "rights" are merely assertions of will or political power. . . . Another welcome feature of French liberalism today is its willingness to reflect on the actual workings of a liberal society. Here Gilles Lipovetsky, Anne Godignon, Jean-Louis Thiriet and Pierre Manent offer especially compelling insights. . . . New French Thought makes clear how much the intellectual climate in Paris has changed for the better."--Harvey Mansfield, Wall Street Journal
"As Lilla suggests in a fine introduction, French thinkers are now considering issues they have neglected for years: human rights, modern individualism, the nature of liberalism--subjects which have obsessed their British and American counterparts for years. This volume may be just the thing to start an entente cordiale between Anglophone and Continental philosophers."--The Guardian
"This excellent volume brings together the writings of the younger generation of French writers and intellectuals . . . who for virtually the first time have accepted the legitimacy of liberal democracy as a political order."--Foreign Affairs
"There is no better guide to the recent and dramatic changes in French philosophy. This outstanding volume is certain to correct the visual image of what is vital in French thought today, and is itself bound to make an important contribution to our own debates in political theory."--Charles Larmore, Columbia University
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