City Journal Winter 2016

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Pierre Manent
City, Empire, Church, Nation « Back to Story

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A concise and clear philosophical survey of Western European man' political and spiritual odyssey into the desert world of modernity. The modern state or sovereignty (Hobbes) and the modern ego or consciousness (Descartes) have continued to deracinate human nature and culture. Human action is still capable of restoring life to modern man if it can recognize and challenge the operating purposes of modernity. Manent is a great teacher in this effort.
Brilliant essay! Brilliant for what it says so very well. Equally brilliant in concluding with a question rather than some arrogantly pedantic vision of what is certainly (in his opinion)to come. Manent lays out a convincing foundation of the modern predicament and how we got "here" and leaves it to his readers to fill in the future. Pity that so few of us could even begin to fathom an answer to his question.
Without action we will become Muslim or we will be killed.
What an admirable mind is Pierre Manent
"There are great civilizations other than the West, and much has happened in them, but they have not known historical movement. They have chronicles but not a history—at least before the pressure or aggression of the West brought them into history."
How do you define history and movement to justify the claim that civilizations other than the West do not even have a history? That claim is just so eurocentric.
Such long verbiage ! Is it really necessary?
David Graeber:
"Postmodern arguments, as I would define them at least, pretty much always take the same form:
1) begin with an extremely narrow version of what things used to be like, usually derived by taking some classic text and treating it as a precise and comprehensive treatment of reality. For instance, assume that all capitalism up until the ‘60s or ‘70s worked exactly the way described in the first two or three chapters of volume I of Marx’s Capital"
For Manent, replace Capital with Machievelli and 95 theses.
" 2) compare this to the complexities of how things actually work in the present"
For Manent, omg so much more bureaucracy and regulation.
"3) declare that we can now see that lo!, sometime around 1968 or maybe 1975, the world changed completely. None of the old rules apply. Now everything is different."
I would say Manent makes the same argument.

Manent is a postmodernist, postmodernists are conservatives, using Pomo to hate on heavily reified and dehistoricized representations European political forms is what useless French theorists do best. Manent is a useless French theorist.
In simpler terms, writing an op-Ed about how op-eds are useless is an excercise only a french theorist could get away with, because it requires a sort of pathetic pandering to power the French sophistes have excelled in since before Sartre in Vichy France.
It's curious that all the evils of "modern" are attributed to its attachment to "civilization." One might gain a different perspective from reading G. K. Chesterton's nearly 100 year old "The Everlasting Man." Most of what is obviously wrong with civilization was common within all pagon civilizations, and surely common during the French Revolution, when public beheadings served as public entertainment. Rome, at least, slaughtered Christians during its decline and fall. This brings up the question of whether we in the US are in our decline and fall period - we slaughter innocent babies, and leave infants and children in abusive homes with single, unemployed women and their sponging off their welfare "entitlements" boyfriends.
tTthe terms speech and action show nothing and mean nothing! They exist every--where,The writer is totally confused!
This leaves America alone in its willingness to defend a specific national interest and the nation as the organizing principle of life. That is a lot of pressure for one nation to handle. I hope we rise to the occasion.
1848, let's add 1848 to that list...
Good grief. I have a headache. There must be a simpler way of saying all this.
The word "modern" comes from the word "mode," which means "way." The root meaning is therefore having to do with style more than substance. If we can't agree on WHERE we are going, then the way we get there will be fraught with fundamental disagreements. The most we will ever agree on wholly as a culture is on scientific, communications, transportation or medical breakthroughs. These will never be destinations, just means of going somewhere undefined. My personal opinion is that there is a God who oversees all, and looks for adherence to His Word. Isaiah 66:2. Blessed is the nation that fears the Lord.
Mr. Manent's essay is, indeed, excellent. I would venture that it borders on art as much as it is a wonderful example of prose musings. One question it brings to my mind has to do with the belief that "movement" is central to the notion of Modern. I don't take issue with this premise (if I understand Mr. Manent correctly). My concern arises out of a consideration that so much of what we see today in political dialogue seems to suggest movement in a backwards direction. Surely, that which qualifies as Modern must be uni-directional (i.e. forward) in nature. Regression cannot be a component of what is deemed Modern. So are we on the cusp of a new age--one that abandons Modernity in order to find comfort in some supposedly more desireable past, whether or not that past is accurately reflected in the present? If this is true, then it seems we are betraying the values of all those Modernists who came before us and who strove so mightily to bring about science, representative democracy, and all of the other foundations of the modern world.
quote "To be more precise, Western movement began with internal and external movements of the Greek city—that is, with class struggle and foreign war. Cities were the ordering of human life that brought to light the domain of the common, the government of what was common, and the implementation of the common. The Greek city was the first complete implementation of human action, the ordering of the human world that made action possible and meaningful, the place where men for the first time deliberated and formulated projects of action. It was there that men discovered that they could govern themselves and that they learned to do it. The Greek city was the first form of human life to produce political energy—a deployment of human energy of a new intensity and quality. It was finally consumed by its own energy in the catastrophe of the Peloponnesian War."

I find it fascinating to consider the past and reflect on what was and what wasn't. Pre-Christian times for me have an openness, a breadth that we have appeared to lose by the chains of Rome. Free will, free form, these are great and exciting arenas in which I can explore my self and challenge other for their views and opinions. We need, or so I believe, to throw of the shackles that hold us back and embrace a brave aka scary new world. Change is Guaranteed. Healthy Essay, thank you.
Thank you Mr. Manent. This I believe is the finest article I've read at City, and that's saying a lot. Because THIS PROBLEM, (the MODERN PROBLEM,) can't be stopped if it isn't defined in it's blatant, yet almost completely unnoticed, distortion of reality.
Boredom with the old is a strong driver for change.