The healing light: An introduction to the political philosophizing of Pierre Manent

Peter Paul Seaton, Fordham University


This is the first full length study of the thought of the contemporary French political philosopher, Pierre Manent (b. 1949), in any language. The twin foci of his reflections are “liberalism” and “the nation,” the former a distinctive body of doctrine embodied in political institutions and political culture, the latter a distinctive political formation. His varied studies describe and analyze the liberal democratic nation-state, its various historical instantiations, and its checkered past, complex present and possible futures. His early mentors were two giants of twentieth century of political and philosophical thought: Raymond Aron and Leo Strauss. Aron was his model of what it is to think politically, while Strauss provided a major key to understanding the issues and complexities of modern political philosophy. A certain “cross-fertilization” of the two produced in Manent a unique hybrid, a political philosopher vitally interested in actual politics and a citizen who subjects his civic allegiance and the contemporary political world to searching philosophical investigation. The course of our study is as follows: A 1997 Manentian survey and analysis of the contemporary liberal democratic world was conducted with the assistance of two of his authorities: Tocqueville and Aristotle. Like them, Manent and we begin with what is “first for us.” This study of the current condition of “modern liberty” leads back to his 1986 exploration of the theoretical construction of “liberalism” by the modern philosophers from Machiavelli to Montesquieu, ending with the indispensable Tocqueville. In Manent's judgment the single best analyst of modern democracy, Manent's work on Tocqueville merits two chapters. Two topics conclude our study: An influential alternative to Manent's dialectical philosophical approach, Max Weber's social science, is confronted. And the Catholic Church, the original protagonist in the drama of modernity and a chief institution of democratic civil society, calls for attention. Manent, a (discrete Catholic) political philosopher is happy to shine the salutary light of his discipline upon “the Church and modern democracy.”

Subject Area

Political science

Recommended Citation

Seaton, Peter Paul, "The healing light: An introduction to the political philosophizing of Pierre Manent" (2003). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3098139.