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De Gaulle: Statesmanship, Grandeur, and Modern Democracy [Hardcover]

Daniel Mahoney
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 14, 1996 0275949222 978-0275949228

Mahoney provides a comprehensive study of the thought and action of Charles de Gaulle. This volume is neither a biography nor a historical narrative, although it addresses important aspects of de Gaulle's life and political career. Mahoney asserts that de Gaulle is systematically misunderstood, especially in the Anglo-American world. He is sometimes dismissed as a narrow or quixotic nationalist, pigeon-holed as an irrational anti-American, and often labelled with various anti-democratic appellations such as Bonapartist or Nietzschean. In responding to this wide-spread misunderstanding, Mahoney analyzes de Gaulle's approach to the problem of modern democracy, and he shows that de Gaulle neither despaired of liberal democracy nor succumbed to the illusions that anything is better than democratic mediocrity.

De Gaulle believed that human beings were political animals who naturally desired to live in communities dedicated to shared, noble purposes. He also knew that modern men are individuals who resist or ignore these purposes. The statesman-writer de Gaulle believed it was the task of statesmanship to kindle these political purposes by reaching for the summits—for the dazzling light of national unity and ambition that he called grandeur. Mahoney shows that de Gaulle did not despair of liberal democracy; he did not succumb to the illusions of the impatient or tyrannical that anything is better than democratic mediocrity. This is an important corrective to scholars and students of modern political thought and European history, as well as an invaluable guide to democratic statesmanship in our time.

Editorial Reviews


"One of Daniel Mahoney's great merits is to reconstitute, on the basis of de Gaulle's writings, de Gaulle's view of the whole, of politics and of the human condition in general. He shows in a convincing manner that, contrary to a reproach often leveled against him, de Gaulle was not at all "Nietzschean..,."I admire the fact that Daniel Mahoney--who already has published a remarkable work on Raymond Aron--understands French things so well. I admire even more the power of the work, the fertile passion and the intelligence with which he strives to comprehend the human meaning of politics."-from the foreword by Pierre Manent Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

Book Description

Shows de Gaulle's relevance to larger concerns of democracy and statesmanship.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (May 14, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0275949222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0275949228
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 9.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,885,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on de Gaulle's thought there is October 3, 2001
With this book, you will go a long way towards understanding the congenitally misunderstood figure of Charles de Gaulle. And he's well worth understanding. This book is not a biography and is not organized chronologically. Rather, each chapter delves into different aspects of his political philosophy -- what were his ideas and where did he get them from?
Here is a sampling of some of the themes explored in this book: How de Gaulle interpreted French history, with a discreet preference for the Old Regime and ambivalence towards Napoleon, whose grandeur led him to contempt for moral and physical limits. An analysis of his early writings where he gives a self-portrait describing the "man of character" who is "made for great deeds." His deep moral sense of Christianity and democracy combined with his "egotism, pride, hardness, and cunning." How de Gaulle came to his 1940 decision that resistance was the only legitimate course of action. Why he saw the "constitutional correction" of 1958 as necessary. His views on European union.

The author is obviously admiring of de Gaulle but does not brush away his weak points -- the main one perhaps being that de Gaulle rhetorically treated the two superpowers as though they were an equal danger to France. In the end de Gaulle emerges as a supporter of democracy, but one who is not afraid to criticize its negative aspects. His idea that one must work against democracy's tendancy to promote mediocrity and conformity of ideas is straight out of Alexis de Tocqueville. If you want to get inside the head of de Gaulle, you've got to get your hands on this slim and profoundly thoughtful volume. I found it absolutely fascinating.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars De Gaulle as Political Philosopher February 14, 2005
Mahoney has done us the favour of going through De Gaulle's principal writings and speeches to reveal a political philosopher of trenchant insight and immanent applicability. This book is essential for understanding De Gaulle and for his contribution to political thought. It has the grace both to be quite well-written and also to encompass its topic in 150 pages. Especially intriguing is the discussion of De Gaulle's debt to Charles Peguy; especially timely is De Gaulle wise objection to Jean Monnet's European project. De Gaulle was indeed an arrogant man - with much to be arrogant about!

Mahoney is one of the few writers who successfully overturns conventional thinking. Newman taught that the conventional wisdom about the Catholic Faith is wrong. Clyde Wilson has taught that the conventional wisdom about Calhoun is wrong. Thomas DiLorenzo has taught that the conventional wisdom about Lincoln and his war is wrong. Murray Rothbard taught that the conventional wisdom about the Great Depression is wrong. Jim Powell has taught that the conventional wisdom about Franklin Roosevelt is wrong. Thomas Fleming and Jim Powell have taught that the conventional wisdom about Woodrow Wilson is wrong. Hans-Hermann Hoppe has taught that the conventional wisdom about democracy is wrong. Kuehnelt-Leddihn taught that the conventional wisdom about royalism is wrong. Martin van Creveld has taught that the conventional wisdom about war is wrong. Niall Fergusson has taught that the conventional wisdom about World War I is wrong. Böhm-Bawerk taught that the conventional wisdom about Marx is utterly wrong. Dr Atkins taught that the conventional wisdom about dieting is wrong. And Daniel J. Mahoney has taught that the conventional (Anglo-American) wisdom about De Gaulle is wrong.

No small achievement.
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