Tocqueville, Jansenism, and the Necessity of the Political in a Democratic Age: Building a Republic for the Moderns

Tocqueville, Jansenism, and the Necessity of the Political in a Democratic Age: Building a Republic for the Moderns

by David Selby


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Before being declared heretical in 1713, Jansenism was a Catholic movement focused on such central issues as original sin and predestination. In this engaging book, David Selby explores how the Jansenist tradition shaped Alexis de Tocqueville's life and works and argues that once that connection is understood, we can apply Tocqueville's political thought in new and surprising ways.  Moving from the historical sociology of Jansenism in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France to contemporary debates over the human right to education, the role of religion in democracy, and the nature of political freedom, Selby brings Tocqueville out of the past and makes him relevant to the present, revealing that there is still much to learn from this great theorist of democracy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789089646057
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Publication date: 10/15/2015
Series: Intellectual and Political History Series
Pages: 284
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

David Selby is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and adjunct faculty at Ohlone Junior College in California.

Table of Contents

Qui êtes-vous Monsieur de Tocqueville?
The Big Payoffs
On Method: What Happens after the Revolution?
A Final Word
1. Jansenism and Republicanism in Old Regime France
A Précis of the History of Jansenism
An Ideal-Type of Jansenism
The Jansenist Ethic and the Spirit of Resistance: Malesherbes’ Resistance to Maupeou’s Reforms
Conclusion: Jansenism and Republicanism in Old Regime France
2. Tocqueville, Jansenism, and French Political Culture, 1789-1859
Two Jansenist Categories: The Notes to Democracy in America
A Brief History of the Tocqueville Family and the Cultural Influences Present in Family Life
The Family Library and the Education of an Aristocrat
The Study of Law and Two Friends from Versailles
Jansenist Themes in Tocqueville’s Life and Letters
Conclusion: Jansenism in the Life and Works of Alexis de Tocqueville
3. Providence
Jansenism and Providence: Secular History, Religious Knowledge, and the Imperative to Struggle for the Good in the Space Provided by Providence
The Dual Influence of Bossuet in the Nineteenth Century
Tocqueville’s Apology for Democracy: Contra Maistre on the Nature of the French Revolution
Tocqueville’s Use of the Theory of Orders: Contra Bossuet
Conclusion: A New Political Science for a Democratic Age
4. Sovereignty
Pascal’s ‘Conversation’ in the Nineteenth Century
The First Series of Debates: The Villèle Ministry and the Events of 1822
Jansenist and Doctrinaire Responses: Grégoire and Villemain
Louis-Phillipe d’Orléans: Liberal Monarch, or Prince of the French Republic?
The Liberal Monarch and his Ministers: The Doctrinaires
Tocqueville’s Trip to America and the Sovereignty of the People
Conclusion: The Modern Republicanism of Alexis de Tocqueville
5. Power and Virtue
The Liberal Challenge: Constant on the Liberties of the Ancients and the Moderns
Tocqueville’s First Rejoinder: Individualism and Interest Properly Understood
The Jansenist Toolbox: Pascal, Nicole, d’Aguesseau
From Subject to Citizen: The Moral Relations of the Republic
Conclusion: The Necessity of the Political in a Democratic Age
6. Religion (I)
Setting up the Problem: Stepan and Tocqueville as Third-Way Democrats
The Freedom of Education and the Failure of Democratic Bargaining, 1843-1844
Two Models of Education: Moral and Civic
Tocqueville’s Compromise
Conclusion: The Path not Taken, and Reconstructing the Right to the Freedom of Education
7. Religion (II)
Tocqueville’s Antinomies and the Democratic Social State
The Political Utility of Religion
The Spill-Over Effect
The Separation Effect
The Restraint Effect
The Mechanism of Practice: A Brief Comparison of Religion in the works of Alexis de Tocqueville and Robert Bellah
The Ideal-Type in History: From America to France
Back to America: The Double Foundation and the American Democratic Revolution
Tocqueville’s Modern Republicanism
Power, Non-Domination, and Realist Republicanism
Practical Experience, Political Activity, and Civic Virtue
Institutionalizing the Republic and the Prospects for Freedom in a Democratic Age

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