By Steve Sailer
The French have so assiduously cultivated their knack for glib philosophizing that most Americans less credulous than professors of English literature have lost all interest in French intellectual life. They sense that the French are more interested in expounding novelties than truths.
This state of affairs is doubly unfortunate. That handful of contemporary French thinkers who are immune to the Parisian infatuation with fashion and fads are heirs to a grand tradition, including Montesquieu and Tocqueville. Moreover, the French language may be more conducive to lucid rationality than any other tongue.
Finally, as irritating as French arrogance can be, it’s often rooted in a genuine and admirable national pride, a patriotism seldom found in other European countries in the 21st Century.
Among the most acute and sagacious French political philosophers of our era is Pierre Manent. He began his career as the assistant to Raymond Aron, the liberal intellectual who served during the 1960s as the tribune of common sense in a France in love with insane ideologies—epitomized by Aron’s École nationale d’administration classmate and life-long rival, the pro-Communist existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
Over the last decade, Manent has turned from the study of the great thinkers of the past to grappling with new problems—above all the European grandees’ attempt to suffocate national self-rule within the bureaucratic European Union.
Manent’s forthcoming work from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is a short (103 pp) and highly readable book entitled Democracy Without Nations: The Fate of Self-Government in Europe, translated by Paul Seaton. It’s of particular interest to VDARE.com readers and to anyone concerned with the National Question—whether the nation-state can survive as the political expression of a particular people.
Elite opposition to nations, and thus to self-government, is not confined merely to Europe. On September 11, 2001, the Melbourne Age reported on former President Bill Clinton’s speech to an Australian confab:
“‘[Clinton]Australia and he took a position on it,’” said Tom Hogan, president of Vignette Corporation, host of the exclusive forum. ‘The president believes the world will be a better place if all borders are eliminated—from a trade perspective, from the viewpoint of economic development and in welcoming [the free movement of]cultures and countries,’ Mr. Hogan said. Mr. Clinton … said he supported the ultimate wisdom of a borderless world for people and for trade.”["Open borders to all:" Clinton, By Garry Barker, Melbourne Age, September 11, 2001]
Manent’s reaction to 9/11 was similar to that of VDARE.com—we cited a once-famous poem by Rudyard Kipling:
“The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.”
“In my view, the most deeply troubling information conveyed by the event … was this: present-day humanity is marked by much more profound, much more intractable separations than we had thought. … Before that fateful day we spoke so glibly of ‘differences’ … [which] could only be light and superficial, easy to combine, easy to welcome and accommodate in a reconciled humanity whose dazzling appearance would be enlivened by these differences. This was such an aesthetic vision—a tourist’s view of human things!”
The contrast between Manent’s French clarity and the intentionally opaque and woozy ideas rationalizing the growing dominance of the EU can be striking. He continues:
“Today, all of us—at least in Europe—are moved and even carried away by … a passion for resemblance. It is no longer simply a matter of recognizing and respecting the humanity of each human being. We are required to see the other as the same as ourselves. And if we cannot stop ourselves from perceiving what is different about him, we reproach ourselves for doing so, as if it were a sin.” [MORE]