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An Intellectual History of Liberalism Paperback – July 22, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

Manent has written a concise and graceful essay on the history of liberal thought._ [This] book makes clear that even the most emphatically political liberalisms always involve more than opinions about forms of government. Liberalism, as he reconstructs it, is an elaborate edifice of beliefs, practices and institutions. To neglect any one of these elements is, in Manent's account, to endanger the whole.

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"Pierre Manent has the lively and free step of a man who has chosen the society of great minds. After so many books that make the reader consider the great authors in the context of an inventory of their neuroses or an account of their property, it is good to encounter a work where the content of the thoughts is more important than the conditions of their production."--Mona Ozouf, Le Nouvel observateur

"Manent has written a concise and graceful essay on the history of liberal thought. . . . [This] book makes clear that even the most emphatically political liberalisms always involve more than opinions about forms of government. Liberalism, as he reconstructs it, is an elaborate edifice of beliefs, practices and institutions. To neglect any one of these elements is, in Manent's account, to endanger the whole."--Peter Berkowitz, The Boston Book Review

"[This book] is situated in what can be seen as the most important cultural current of the end of the twentieth century, that is to say the systematic reevaluation of modernity. . . . Pierre Manent explains to us with remarkable clarity and conciseness that our comprehension of modern politics must be re-placed in the frame of religious dilemmas from which it has emerged."--Jean Marejko, L'Impact

"Manent's striking claim is that to make sense of liberalism as a form of life one must see it in the light of the spirit that animates it, and that that animating spirit comes into sharpest focus in the writings of the great European political theorists. . . . [He] has written a concise and graceful essay on the history of liberal thought."--The Boston Book Review

"Manent's whirlwind tour through the major works of modern political philosophy attempts to answer the question, "Where are we heading?" . . . Manent's approach . . . exhibits a profundity not often encountered in contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy. . . . [his] book can be placed proudly next to the classic works of two of his teachers: Raymond Aron and Leo Strauss."--Crisis

"He has not offered us one of those academic tomes that seem more concerned with scoring points against rivals in the academy than with the material itself. Instead, Manent has, in 10 pointed "lessons," taken up the central questions animating some of the major works of modernity. . . . [Manent's work] is filled with remarkable insights into the nature of liberalism."--Adam Wolfson, The Public Interest
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Product Details

  • Series: New French Thought Series
  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (July 22, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691029113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691029115
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
AN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY OF LIBERALISM has the deceptive appearance of a survey of liberal thought- one of many such overviews. What Manent presents instead is page after page of brilliant, original insights into the ideas of Locke, Hume, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Hobbes, Constant, and Toqueville, among others. I stopped reading in surprise every few paragraphs in some sections, to find my understanding of an old & familiar concept significantly altered- shown in an utterly novel light. Anyone interested in early liberal philosophy will find this book extremely valuable.
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Format: Paperback
This book gives a practical summary of the origins of classical liberalism, as opposed to the contemporary American usage of the word "liberal". As an intellectual history Pierre Manent's concisely written book shows the evolution of ideas over time and anchors the main ideas to a few central thinkers, but gives no historical information (dates, characters, circumstances). What is the fundamental natural state of man, and what does this imply about rights and governance? How are the roles of civil society and state to be defined? How did liberalism come to suggest itself as an alternative to Europe's three original models: empires, monarchies and city-states? How does the liberal thinking of the Enlightenment compare to ancient Greek political theory? How were competing social interests to be reconciled after the French Revolution against the ancienne régime? The book indicates how influential French thinking and the French Revolution was for liberalism, but covers less about other influencers such as Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill who in some ways responded to the French influence. Manent's book is a stimulating and bracing reconsideration of the cultural and political matrix that gives form to modern life. The reader is naturally reminded of the self-satisfaction of contemporary politicians and parties, who pretend to be intellectual descendents carrying the torch of great thinkers.

One central thesis of the author is that liberalism originates in the struggle to be free from religion in governance. This was not only necessary to confront the despotism of the Catholic Church but also to ensure a stable and therefore pluralistic foundation in the face of crumbling religious unity after Luther.
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This book is "many books in relatively short one." It colud be the last rather than the first introduction to the modern liberal political philosophy.
Pierre Manent 's books are always intellectually rewarding and politically sound like this one. Since Raymond Aron passed away, I think, Professor Manent is now "France's Professor."
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The best brief intellectual history of liberalism available. But it is unfair to the book to call it an intellectual history, since it is actually a philosophic meditation of Western liberalism from Machaiavelli to Tocqueville. In other words, a philsophical short masterpiece.
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This book is just what I needed and it was delivered right on time. It will help me immensely in understanding what I need for my Poly Sci class! I have read almost all of it and it is great to see the impact of philosophers in our modern time.
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