The Humane Comedy: Constant, Tocqueville, and French Liberalism

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In this study of French liberalism in the first half of the nineteenth century and its continuing relevance to political theory and practice, emphasis is given to the tensions and fissures within liberalism as well as to its struggles against Jacobinism, conservatism and socialism. It is a blend of political theory, biography and intellectual and political history informed throughout by the author's distinctive political, moral and religious sensibilities. A major theme of great relevance to current debate about liberalism is the contrast between the vigor and brilliance of these thinkers as political critics, their inefficacy as political actors and their ultimate retreat from political life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...reveals more about the intellectual context of French liberalism between the First and Second Empires than any other single work I know." Nineteenth-Century French Studies

"The late George Armstrong Kelly's Humane Comedy, pieced together from a nearly complete manuscript after his death, is not just a supremely elegant and immensely learned book but also, in its reserved, ironic way, stunningly profound." French Politics and Society

"Professor Kelley's book focuses...on liberalism. He examines with accomplished scholarship, sensitivity and elegance of style, and without modish jargon, the fissures and contradictions within it. The subject-matter is familiar but Kelley leaves us with a deeper understanding of the weaknesses of French liberalism as a political force, doomed to nearly a century of eclipse." The Times Literary Supplement

" of the great themes of this work is the startling connection between liberal views and religious belief....In this dazzling conclusion, Kelly has given us every reason to regret his passing and to measure the loss to scholarship." Stanley Mellon, American Historical Review

"Kelly's achievement greatly enhances our understanding of France's liberal intellectuals in the first half of the nineteenth century, who attempted to accomplish what their Enlightenment predecessors had sought to comprehend in their own search for the conditions making possible a free society. His success invites historians to appreciate the permanence and impermanence of all theory marshalled to create free peoples and nations." Canadian Journal of History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521412278
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2003
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword Stephen R. Graubard; Acknowledgements; 1. Ports in the storm; 2. Constant versus Tocqueville; 3. In partibus fidelium; 4. Philosophy as civil religion; 5. Lamartine, liberalism's fallen angel; 6. Parnassian liberalism; Index.

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