We live in the grip of a great illusion about politics, Pierre Manent argues in A World beyond Politics? It's the illusion that we would be better off without politics--at least national politics, and perhaps all politics. It is a fantasy that if democratic values could somehow detach themselves from their traditional national context, we could enter a world of pure democracy, where human society would be ruled solely according to law and morality. Borders would dissolve in unconditional internationalism and nations would collapse into supranational organizations such as the European Union. Free of the limits and sins of politics, we could finally attain the true life.
In contrast to these beliefs, which are especially widespread in Europe, Manent reasons that the political order is the key to the human order. Human life, in order to have force and meaning, must be concentrated in a particular political community, in which decisions are made through collective, creative debate. The best such community for democratic life, he argues, is still the nation-state.
Following the example of nineteenth-century political philosophers such as Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill, Manent first describes a few essential features of democracy and the nation-state, and then shows how these characteristics illuminate many aspects of our present political circumstances. He ends by arguing that both democracy and the nation-state are under threat--from apolitical tendencies such as the cult of international commerce and attempts to replace democratic decisions with judicial procedures.
Pierre Manent teaches political philosophy at L’École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales in Paris. His books include An Intellectual History of Liberalism and The City of Man (both Princeton).
"In this dazzling book, French political philosopher Pierre Manent tries to provide an 'impartial overview of the political order--or disorder--of today's world.' Few living thinkers could hope to pull off such an ambitious undertaking, but Manent is surely one. . . . The reader will find much . . . of interest in this heady book: meditations on egalitarianism, modern art, the French novel, sexual identity, science and faith, the French and American revolutions, the morality of international relations--on and on, all delivered in Manent's glistening prose, ably translated by Marc LePain. . . . It's an ideal introduction to political philosophy in the new millennium."--Brian C. Anderson, National Review
"By simultaneously insisting upon the (limited) intelligibility of natural, human, and political matters and remaining open to the questions that invite theological responses, Manent has already achieved a great deal and put us all in his debt."--Thomas S. Hibbs, First Things
"A World beyond Politics? is a remarkable tour d'horizon that happens to be a genuine tour de force."--James W. Ceaser, Claremont Review of Books
"Pierre Manent may be the best student of political philosophy alive, and this is probably his most penetrating, wonderful, and accessible book. A World beyond Politics? certainly deserves to be the most influential political analysis written this century so far."--Peter Augustine, Perspectives on Politics
Table of Contents:
Preface to the American Edition vii
CHAPTER 1: The Organization of Separations 10
CHAPTER 2: The Theologico-Political Vector 21
CHAPTER 3: The Movement of Equality 32
CHAPTER 4: The Question of Political Forms 42
CHAPTER 5: The Nation and the Work of Democracy 51
CHAPTER 6: Europe and the Future of the Nation 60
CHAPTER 7: The Wars of the Twentieth Century 70
CHAPTER 8: The Forces of Trade 86
CHAPTER 9: Declaring the Rights of Man 98
CHAPTER 10: Becoming an Individual 110
CHAPTER 11: The Religion of Humanity 121
CHAPTER 12: The Body and the Political Order 130
CHAPTER 13: Sexual Division and Democracy 141
CHAPTER 14: The Question of Communism 151
CHAPTER 15: Is There a Nazi Mystery? 161
CHAPTER 16: The Empire of Law 171
CHAPTER 17: The Empire of Morality 186
CHAPTER 18: The Human Political Condition and the Unity of the Human Race 197