From School Library Journal
Rahe (history & political science, Hillsdale Coll.; Republics Ancient and Modern
) has actually written two books in one: the first three quarters are a detailed reading of the great 18th- and 19th-century political and social theorists Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville on the nature of government, the glue that holds the polity together, and the difficulty maintaining political virtue and, with it, individual freedom, in a democratic republic. The threat to liberty and civic virtue, as Tocqueville saw it, lay in the elimination of intermediate bodies (like townships) that directly involved citizens in governing. Without such intermediate bodies, democracy would drift into soft despotism, with a central government regulating the smallest details of the citizen's life. This part of the book is tightly reasoned, relying on a thoughtful reading of texts that still have great merit for our own age. The final section of the book is an impassioned, occasionally intemperate, but largely successful attempt to describe the malaise gripping democratic governments today, combined with a plea to limit government's intrusion into our lives. (The author quite evidently holds libertarian views.) Many scholars and serious readers will find this essential reading.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
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"Acute analysts of emergent commercial republicanism found much to praise, even while foreseeing (and showing how one might avert) its slide into mindless self-absorption. With this expert, engrossing account, Paul Rahe joins that honorable company who resist the further degradation of democratic souls."?Ralph Lerner, The University of Chicago -- Ralph Lerner
"This is an exemplary deployment of great past thinkers in an intensely provocative, deliberately controversial meditation on the profound strengths and weaknesses or dangers in our political culture."-Thomas L. Pangle, author of Montesquieu''s Philosophy of Liberalism: A Commentary on the Spirit of the Laws -- Thomas L. Pange