Beyond Politics

Most Americans think of the terms modern and modernity as denoting something positive.  A modern society is advanced in science, reason, hygiene, and human goodness.  To condemn modernity is to be against progress and all of its material benefits.  Even American conservatives are essentially modern in outlook, identifying modernity with material improvement.  European conservatives are different.  To many, modernity is a more complex phenomenon that is both material and spiritual in nature.  French legal scholar and political thinker Philippe Beneton is one of these; he represents a long line of conservative writers who have looked beyond the material benefits of modernity to reveal its disturbing spiritual essence.

Beneton’s thesis is not new.  His contribution is nonetheless important for a number of reasons.  First, Beneton accurately describes the contemporary condition in the West.  Forthright about his religious conservatism, he nevertheless writes without polemical or critical bias but, in the tradition of Tocqueville, paints life as he sees it.  Second, he presents the modern world in a clear and concise way that can be readily understood by the layman.  (Credit here is also due to Prof. Ralph C. Hancock of Brigham Young University for translating the manuscript and introducing Beneton’s ideas to an American audience.)  The book is particularly...

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