Liberal Values: Benjamin Constant and the Politics of Religion

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Professor Rosenblatt presents a study of Benjamin Constant's intellectual development into a founding father of modern liberalism, through a careful analysis of his evolving views on religion. Constant's life spanned the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, Napoleon's rise and rule, and the Bourbon Restoration. Rosenblatt analyzes Constant's key role in many of this era's heated debates over the role of religion in politics, and in doing so, exposes and addresses many misconceptions that have long reigned about Constant and his period. In particular, Rosenblatt sheds light on Constant's major, yet much-neglected work, De La Religion. Given that the role of religion is, once again, center-stage in our political, philosophical and historical arenas, Liberal Values constitutes a major revision of our understanding of the origins of modern liberalism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a very readable and illuminating account of Constant's evolving ideas on the relationship between politics and religion, church and state, and liberal democracy and moral values. A valuable addition to any collection on the Enlightenment or political/religious liberty." —Choice

"Rosenblatt successfully excavates an unduly neglected stratum of Constant's thought...the way in which battles ofver religious ideas and moral instruction served as focal points in the political disputes of his time is brilliantly describes, and our understanding of Constant's progress as a political thinker is greatly enhanced. Both books are valuable and important contributions to the growing literature on French liberalism." —Arthur Goldhammer, Harvard University: Political Theory Book Reviews

"Tightly organized around a few central themes and drawing upon a wide array of primary and secondary sources, Rosenblatt's book has an ambitious scope and agenda. It combines textual analysis with a close interpretation of the relevant intellectual and historical context...The great merit of Helena Rosenblatt's erudite and insightful book is that it sheds fresh light on how Constant achieved his goal and how he remained faithful to it to the very end of his agitated and controversial life."
The Review of Politics, Aurelian Craiutu

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107402300
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2011
  • Series: Ideas in Context Series, #92
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Helena Rosenblatt is Professor of History of Hunter College at the City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; Introduction; Part I. Constant's Education: the French, Scottish, and German Enlightenments: 1. Childhood; 2. Edinburgh; 3. Paris; 4. Protestantism and the Enlightenment; 5. Brunswick; 6. Mauvillon, the new German theology and the idea of progressive revelation; 7. Constant's 'The Spirit of Religions'; 8. Madame de Staël; Part II. The Crucible of the Directory Years: 1. The see-saw policy of the directory; 2. Catholicism and the need for 'Republican Institutions'; 3. Catholic counter-arguments; 4. Constant during the Directory; 5. Critics of the Directory's Religious Policies; 6. The second Directory and the renewed campaign for Republican institutions; 7. Theophilanthropy; 8. Lessons of the Directory: William Godwin and Des circonstances actuelles; Part III. Napoleon, or Battling 'the New Cyrus': 1. Napoleon and the Catholic Revival; 2. Enlightened responses and the plan to 'Protestantize' France; 3. Charles de Villers; 4. Bonaparte's decision; 5. Portalis on the Utility of Religion; 6. The Concordat and the Organic Articles; 7. Friends and foes of the Concordat: from the Génie du christianisme to Delphine; 8. Constant's trip to Germany; 9. The Sentiment/Form Distinction; 10. Return to Paris (December 1804) and the Debate on a National Religion; Part IV. Constant becomes Constant: From the Principles of Politics (1806) to the Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation (1814): 1. Constant's Political Principles in 1806; 2. 'Private judgement' in Protestant Polemics; 3. Book VIII: On Religious Freedom; 4. Constant's 'Corner of Religion': from the 'Letter about Julie' to the Correspondence with Prosper de Barante, a. The 'Letter about Julie', b. Adolphe and Cecile, c. Correspondence with Prosper de Barante; 5. De l'Allemagne (1810); 6. Constant's return to Germany; 7. The spirit of conquest and usurpation (1814); Part V. Politics and Religion during the Restoration (1814–24): 1. Keeping Political Liberty Alive; 2. Keeping Religious Liberty Alive; Part VI. The 'Protestant Bossuet': De la religion in Political Context (1824–30): 1. De la religion, volume I (May 1824), Reviews of volume I; 2. Charles X and 'the invasion of priests', Constant's article 'Christianity', Professions of Protestantism; 3. De la religion, volume II (October 1825); 4. The Problem with Industrie: Constant and religion seen from the Left; 1. Saint-Simon's 'New Christianity' (1825); 2. Auguste Comte, Le Producteur, and the search for a new 'spiritual authority'; Part VII. Constant's Legacy: 1. The Revolution of 1830; 2. Constant's declining reputation.

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