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Equality by Default: An Essay on Modernity as Confinement (Crosscurrents) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Crosscurrents
  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (July 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932236333
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932236330
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,256,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Philippe Bénéton is Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Rennes in France. He is the author of Le flé au du bien (The Scourge of Prosperity) and Introduction à la politique moderne, among other volumes. Though his essays previously have been translated for publication in journals such as First Things and Crisis, this is his first book to appear in English.

Ralph C. Hancock is Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University and the author or editor of Calvin and the Foundations of Modern Politics, The Legacy of the French Revolution, and America, the West, and Liberal Education, among other works.


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By nhanc on August 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Three words - among many others - whose meanings have been significantly watered down over recent decades. Bénéton does an excellent job describing how the traditional definitions of these concepts have regressed almost to a Nietzschean "last man" extent: all differences between individuals are supposedly equal, no one choice is better than any other, and achieving "greatness" of any kind is therefore both impossible and pointless. With "Equality by Default," Bénéton - a true philosopher - has successfully described precisely why modernity can be viewed "as confinement." For those who, like myself, view the recent surge in moral relativism as a threat to modern society, you will not be disappointed by this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steve M in SLC on November 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beneton begins his reflection by comparing the once grounded concept of equality, that is, that which is naturally inherent by virtue of the dignity that comes with being a human being to the modern notion that is grounded merely in assertion. This seems to have come about by way of disagreement on what the natural end of man is. As such, no one can even suggest to another how one should order his or her life which stifles debate, limits self-reflection (as there is no true object of which to reflect upon), and turns everyone in on themselves to the point of a radical autonomy. This is equality by default. It is the modern man trying to navigate himself through life by choosing among an equally valid (in his mind) set of options. The only question left at this point is, why choose? There is no 'best way to live', no Socratic sense of the 'good life'. Beneton explores this modern mindset through the context of academics, economics, science, technology, politics, and media (not necessarily in that order). When you consider this modern mindset, it is the effect of the media that is particularly troubling. This is because if you lack a principled trajectory in life, you will be prone to the guidance of outside stimuli, and this is where we get confinement...tethered by our most base instincts as they are glorified in the media. I think the following quote by Francois Brune sums this up best:

"Everything that is massively disseminated in the media seems massively to constitute the age, whether it is a matter of anonymous opinions, "progressive" morals, or new modes of existence.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Basically, I found this book to be lacking in organization, logical flow, and readability. Such shortcomings can hardly be explained away as largely the result of language translation. I would not have completed reading the book, though, were it not for quite a few cogent viewpoints and novel insights scattered throughout.

Upon completing the book, I found myself trying to systematically organize and consolidate its various ideas, mainly as centered on its title. Alas, I simply gave up; in my considered view, the book is needlessly fragmentary and rather disjointed. These deficiencies are especially frustrating because the author's ostensible overall message seems readily apparent: the origin, nature, and genetically induced dysfunctionality of late modernity's social and political manifestations in the Western world.

All that said, I believe the author's perspectives and characterizations to be quite timely, generally convincing, and worthy of broad consideration. There certainly is much of relevance here for analyzing and comprehending the disorders of contemporary life in the United States, as well as for undertaking their sorely needed remediation.
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