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 professor of political science at Indiana University, Bloomington. His publications include Liberalism under Siege: The Political Thought of the French Doctrinaires, Tocqueville on America after 1840: Letters and Other Writings (edited and translated with Jeremy Jennings), and America through European Eyes (edited with Jeffrey C. Issac). He has also edited the political works of François Guizot and Madame de Staël.
"For those looking for a spirited argument for the emergence of moderation as a formal body of thought in mid-eighteenth century France and a vigorous defense of moderation as a valid and sophisticated form of political thinking relevant even for the politics of contemporary America, this is your book."--William Olejniczak, H-France Review
"Craiutu's splendid study joins recent books by Harry Clor and Peter Berkowitz that recover appreciation for the moral, political, and philosophical venue of moderation. Clor and Berkowitz do not share Craiutu's emphasis on the indeterminacy of the political good, instead valuing the traditional ideals of the golden mean and the happy medium as indicating a higher path to justice. Such debate about moderation, and its import for a free politics, is a breath of fresh air in our public discourse."--Paul Carrese, Springer Science+Business Media
"Craiutu's . . . book will be read with interest, particularly as a contribution to the constitutional history of the period."--C. P. Courtney, French Studies
"[A] rich historical feast and fascinating interpretation of moderate French political thought . . . Craiutu provides us with in this wonderful book."--Benjamin Hill, Review of Metaphysics
"A cynic might say that moderation is too vague a concept to justify study. But Craiutu here has been able to use this concept, fluid as it is, to give a thought provoking treatment of a long chronological period, though with emphasis on the French ancien régime and the Revolution."--Christopher Guyver, European History Quarterly
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