Political moderation is the touchstone of democracy, which could not function without compromise and bargaining, yet it is one of the most understudied concepts in political theory. How can we explain this striking paradox? Why do we often underestimate the virtue of moderation? Seeking to answer these questions, A Virtue for Courageous Minds examines moderation in modern French political thought and sheds light on the French Revolution and its legacy.
Aurelian Craiutu begins with classical thinkers who extolled the virtues of a moderate approach to politics, such as Aristotle and Cicero. He then shows how Montesquieu inaugurated the modern rebirth of this tradition by laying the intellectual foundations for moderate government. Craiutu looks at important figures such as Jacques Necker, Madame de Staël, and Benjamin Constant, not only in the context of revolutionary France but throughout Europe. He traces how moderation evolves from an individual moral virtue into a set of institutional arrangements calculated to protect individual liberty, and he explores the deep affinity between political moderation and constitutional complexity. Craiutu demonstrates how moderation navigates between political extremes, and he challenges the common notion that moderation is an essentially conservative virtue, stressing instead its eclectic nature.
Drawing on a broad range of writings in political theory, the history of political thought, philosophy, and law, A Virtue for Courageous Minds reveals how the virtue of political moderation can address the profound complexities of the world today.
Aurelian Craiutu is associate professor of political science at Indiana University, Bloomington. His books include Liberalism under Siege: The Political Thought of the French Doctrinaires and (with Jeremy Jennings) Tocqueville on America after 1840: Letters and Other Writings.
"Aurelian Craiutu has written a superb book. The lost virtue of moderation--what Tacitus called 'the most difficult lesson of wisdom'--has at last been given voice. It would be a nice irony if it took a group of French thinkers to teach contemporary Americans something about the value of political moderation and constitutional government. I hope this book will be widely read, especially by our elected officials."--Steven Smith, Yale University
"Moderation was one of the principal ideological tendencies in and after the revolution in France and one of the least studied. This is an original and excellent study of a much neglected subject."--Jonathan Israel, Institute for Advanced Study
"A meticulous, thoughtful, and instructive study. Craiutu shows how, in an immoderate time and place, a coherent politics of moderation emerged. It will be of great interest to historians and students of political philosophy alike."--David Bell, Princeton University
"This is an impeccable piece of scholarship written by one of this generation's leading experts on French political thought. Craiutu makes a bold claim for the crucial importance of a tradition of political moderation that has too readily been overlooked in the history of Western political thought. This is one of the most exhaustively documented and richly detailed works of intellectual history I've read in years."--Richard Boyd, Georgetown University
"France is generally thought to be a country of revolutions and extremes. A Virtue for Courageous Minds tells us that this picture has been very much exaggerated. France had a moderate and liberal tradition that was alive and well during the French Revolution and thereafter. Craiutu rescues from oblivion a group of very nuanced thinkers who were influential during their times but have been forgotten by history."--Helena Rosenblatt, City University of New York
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