Metamorphoses of the City: On the Western Dynamic by Pierre Manent

By Pierre Manent

What is the right way to govern ourselves? The historical past of the West has been formed by means of the fight to respond to this question, in keeping with Pierre Manent. an important fulfillment by way of one in every of Europe's so much influential political philosophers, Metamorphoses of the City is a sweeping interpretation of Europe's ambition seeing that precedent days to generate ever higher sorts of collective self-government, and a mirrored image on what it ability to be modern.

Manent's family tree of the geographical region starts with the Greek city-state, the polis. With its construction, people ceased to prepare themselves exclusively by means of family members and kinship structures and in its place started to dwell politically. finally, because the polis exhausted its chances in struggle and civil strife, towns advanced into empires, epitomized via Rome, and empires in flip gave method to the common Catholic Church and at last the geographical region. via readings of Aristotle, Augustine, Montaigne, and others, Manent charts an highbrow historical past of those political kinds, permitting us to determine that the dynamic of pageant between them is a imperative strength within the evolution of Western civilization.

Scarred by means of the legacy of worldwide wars, submerged in an more and more technical transnational paperwork, indecisive within the face of proliferating crises of consultant democracy, the eu geographical region, Manent says, is nearing the top of its line. What new metamorphosis of the town will supplant it is still seen.

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If we speak in very general terms, there is in the Homeric text much material to justify a “religious” reading as well as a “humanist” The Poetic Birth of the City 33 reading of the poems that educated Greece. Whether we adopt one reading or the other will not lead us far, or rather on the contrary it will lead us too far too quickly. By so mixing humans and gods, by holding on the one hand that humans do nothing important that is not in the end accomplished by the gods, that their victories are the work of the gods, or on the other hand that the gods are moved only by human motives, or motives indistinguishable from human ones, Homer means to say something that would be immediately lost in a religious interpretation as well as in a humanist interpretation.

Simone Weil adds lucidly: “Moreover, moderation itself is not without its perils, since prestige from which force derives at least three quarters of its strength, rests principally upon that marvelous indifference that the strong feel toward the weak, an indifference so contagious that it infects the very people who are the objects of it” (19). Whence the sort of theorem with which Simone Weil sums up her thought: “Such is the nature of force. Its power of converting a man into a thing is a double one, and in its application double-edged.

As for the second version, if it is less unfaithful to its origins, if the contemporary human sciences are less unfaithful to Montesquieu than the theory of democracy is unfaithful to Hobbes or Rousseau, it nonetheless remains that they have abandoned the primacy of the political that Montesquieu had maintained. 4), thus making government, properly speaking, one government among other governments, one thing or one cause among others. ) Thus, the two great versions of modern political science, so impressive and convincing in their founding moment, have ended up today as their contraries.

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