Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty

War, Religion, Commerce, Climate, Terrain, Technology, Uneasiness of Mind, the Spirit of Political Vigilance, and the Foundations of the Modern Republic

Paul A. Rahe

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August 31, 2010
400 pages, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780300168082
Paper

Also available in:
Cloth

This fresh examination of the works of Montesquieu seeks to understand the shortcomings of the modern democratic state in light of this great political thinker’s insightful critique of commercial republicanism.

The western democracies’ muted response to victory in the Cold War signaled the presence of a pervasive discontent, a sense that despite this victory liberal democracy itself was deeply flawed. Paul A. Rahe argues that to understand this phenomenon we must re-examine—starting with Montesquieu—the nature of liberal democracy, its character, and its propensities. In a brilliant exposition of the works of Montesquieu Rahe identifies the profound sense of uneasiness fostered by the modern republic as a source of weakness and as the principal cause of the present discontents.

The author of Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, Paul A. Rahe holds the Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage at Hillsdale College.

‘This is a beautifully crafted, erudite work that stimulates thought, challenges old views and invites us to heed the dangers implicit in what might disarmingly appear to be a triumphant and safe liberal democratic market order.’—Susan Saunders Vosper, Times Higher Education Supplement

“This is an extremely erudite, impressive work of scholarship.  It is…convincingly argued. It brings together detailed readings of Montesquieu ...a command of the historical context in which they wrote, and a sensibility to the literary challenges and requirements of such an understanding.”—Michael Gibbons, University of South Florida

"Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty has put the term to that question of Montesquieu the secular modernist. It is a compelling and masterful work, in which Paul Rahe has completely conceptualized the contemporary discourse in the form of a comprehensive interpretation of Montesquieu, graced with elegant historical awareness, and a compelling defense of its continuing relevance. This is a must read!"—W. B. Allen, author of Rethinking Uncle Tom: The Political Philosophy of H. B. Stowe

“Erudite, nuanced and provocative.  This is a powerful book that will make a lasting impression. Rahe presents a daring new interpretation suggesting Montesquieu’s lack of confidence in monarchy’s future.  He also focuses on previously ignored texts that elucidate Montesquieu's motives in all three of his major works.  A must read for anyone interested in French and English constitutional history and in the prospects for liberty in modern, republican regimes.”— David W. Carrithers, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

‘This is a beautifully crafted, erudite work that stimulates thought, challenges old views and invites us to heed the dangers implicit in what might disarmingly appear to be a triumphant and safe liberal-democratic market order.’ — Susan Saunders, Times Higher Education, 23rd February 2010

"Rahe;s explanations are well written and clearly laid out."--Dan Edelstein, American Historical Review