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Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty: War, Religion, Commerce, Climate, Terrain, Technology, Uneasiness of Mind, the Spirit of Political Vigilance, and the Foundations of the Modern Republic 1st Edition

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300141252
ISBN-10: 0300141254
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Editorial Reviews


“This is an extremely erudite, impressive work of scholarship.  It is…convincingly argued. It brings together detailed readings of Montesquieu ...a command of the historical context in which they wrote, and a sensibility to the literary challenges and requirements of such an understanding.”—Michael Gibbons, University of South Florida
(Michael Gibbons)

"Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty has put the term to that question of Montesquieu the secular modernist. It is a compelling and masterful work, in which Paul Rahe has completely conceptualized the contemporary discourse in the form of a comprehensive interpretation of Montesquieu, graced with elegant historical awareness, and a compelling defense of its continuing relevance. This is a must read!"—W. B. Allen, author of Rethinking Uncle Tom: The Political Philosophy of H. B. Stowe
(W. B. Allen)

“Erudite, nuanced and provocative.  This is a powerful book that will make a lasting impression. Rahe presents a daring new interpretation suggesting Montesquieu’s lack of confidence in monarchy’s future.  He also focuses on previously ignored texts that elucidate Montesquieu's motives in all three of his major works.  A must read for anyone interested in French and English constitutional history and in the prospects for liberty in modern, republican regimes.”— David W. Carrithers, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
(David W. Carrithers)

"Rahe's explanations are well written and clearly laid out."—Dan Edelstein, American Historical Review
(Dan Edelstein American Historical Review)

About the Author

The author of Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, Paul A. Rahe holds the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300141254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300141252
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,746,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

After reading Litterae Humaniores at Wadham College, Oxford, on a Rhodes Scholarship from 1971-1974, Paul A. Rahe completed a Ph.D. in ancient history at Yale University under the direction of Donald Kagan in 1977. In subsequent years, he taught at Cornell University, Franklin and Marshall College, and the University of Tulsa, where he spent twenty-four years before accepting a position at Hillsdale College, where he is Professor of History and holds The Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage.

Professor Rahe's entire scholarly career has been focused on two subjects: the origins and evolution of self-government within the West, and the interplay between politics, diplomacy, and war. His range is considerable. His first book, Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution (1992), was 1200 pages in length and surveyed the origins and development of self-government in ancient Greece and Rome, its re-emergence in a new form in the Middle Ages, the transformation it underwent at the hands of the political philosophers of early modernity, and the statesmanship of the American Founding Fathers. Within the first thirteen months of publication, the hardback edition sold out. Thereafter, it reappeared as an alternative selection of the History Book Club. In 1994, it was reissued in a three-volume paperback edition by the University of North Carolina Press, and it remains in print.

In the course of his career, Professor Rahe has published dozens of chapters on related subjects in edited books and scholarly articles in journals such as The American Journal of Philology, Historia, The American Journal of Archaeology, The American Historical Review, The Review of Politics, History of Political Thought, The American Journal of Business and Professional Ethics, The Journal of the Historical Society, Social Philosophy & Policy, Security Studies, The National Interest, The American Interest, and The Woodrow Wilson Quarterly. He spent two years in Istanbul, Turkey in the mid-1980s as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs; he has been awarded research fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Earhart Foundation; and he has held research fellowships at the Center for Hellenic Study, the National Humanities Center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D. C. , Clare College at Cambridge University, All Souls College at Oxford University, the American Academy in Berlin, and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University; and he has given a host of public lectures at universities in the United States and abroad--most recently at the Hebrew University, at Al-Quds University, and at Shalem College in Jerusalem, at the Sorbonne in Paris, at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in England and the Free University in Berlin. In 1997-98, he was named to the Templeton Honor Rolls for Education in a Free Society by The John M. Templeton Foundation, and in 2006 the Society for French Historical Studies awarded him the Koren Prize for the Best Article Published in French History the preceding year.

Professor Rahe co-edited Montesquieu's Science of Politics: Essays on the Spirit of Laws (2001) with David W. Carrithers and Michael A. Mosher, and he edited Machiavelli's Liberal Republican Legacy (2006). His second book, Against Throne and Altar: Machiavelli and Political Theory under the English Republic, which examines the political thought inspired by the abortive republican experiment that took place in England in the period stretching from 1649 to 1660, was published by Cambridge University Press in April, 2008. His third and fourth books, Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty: War, Religion, Commerce, Climate, Terrain, Technology, Uneasiness of Mind, the Spirit of Political Vigilance, and the Foundations of the Modern Republic and Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville on the Modern Prospect, were published by Yale University Press in 2009. His fifth book, The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge, was released by Yale University Press in November, 2015; and his sixth book, The Spartan Regime, is due for release in September, 2016. He is currently working on a sequel to his fifth book -- tentatively entitled The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Athenian Challenge.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have previously reviewed Professor Rahe's companion volume, Soft Depotism, which is actually the sequal to this book. Each volume can be read independently of each other.

Again, Professor Rahe has written an elegant book. Though he is trained as a historian, he has a keen eye for the political philosophic, so this reading of Montesquieu is not of an antiquarian interest.

The primary focus of this book is Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws. Professor Rahe though seems to know the entire corpus of Montesquieu. He is able to flesh out the hints and allusions that Montesquieu makes. He demonstrates how Montesquieu wrote carefully so that he would not suffer in the manner Voltaire did with his English Letters. He demonstrates how England was really a commercial republic in the disguise of a monarchy.

It is a worthwhile read in itself. It also serves as the beginning of Rahe's argument concerning the trajectory of the modern republic which leads in his opinion to soft despotism, the administrative state, as described by Tocqueville. For those interested in one of the foundations of American political philosophy in connection with the U.S. Constitution, this is as good a place to start as any. (This book however does not discuss how the founders read him.)

If you like Montesquieu, I also recommend Diana Schaub's close reading of the Persian Letters entitled Erotic Liberalism. It can also be purchased through Amazon.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any book by Paul Rahe is worth reading. He is the exception to the rule in scholarly writing. This book is highly researched and well documented but also a pleasure to read. People who are interested in Montesquieu's political thought or in the American founding and the ideas behind it will want to read this book.
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