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Civil Religion
A Dialogue in the History of Political Philosophy


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  • Date Published: December 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521738439

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About the Authors
  • Civil Religion offers philosophical commentaries on more than twenty thinkers stretching from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. It examines four important traditions within the history of modern political philosophy. The civil religion tradition, principally defined by Machiavelli, Hobbes and Rousseau, seeks to domesticate religion by putting it solidly in the service of politics. The liberal tradition pursues an alternative strategy of domestication by seeking to put as much distance as possible between religion and politics. Modern theocracy is a militant reaction against liberalism, reversing the relationship of subordination asserted by civil religion. Finally, a fourth tradition is defined by Nietzsche and Heidegger. Aspects of their thought are not just modern, but hyper-modern, yet they manifest an often-hysterical reaction against liberalism that is fundamentally shared with the theocratic tradition. Together, these four traditions compose a vital dialogue that carries us to the heart of political philosophy itself.

    • The theme is 'religion and politics', which can hardly be more topical (living in a post-9/11 age)
    • The book offers a comprehensive treatment of modern political philosophy, beginning with Machiavelli and concluding with Rawls
    • The interpretations offered are in many cases 'revisionist' or unexpected ones, breaking with conventional traditions of interpretation
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    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2011

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Ronald Beiner does an excellent job of interpreting a dizzying number of works in the tradition, and everyone from undergraduates to seasonal readers of these texts will benefit from his readings … As the scope suggests, this book is an ambitious and ultimately impressive contribution to the history of political thought … Beiner is fully aware of the methodoligical assumptions inherent in his project, but a very helpful introduction and conclusion position him as a moderate and thoughtful presence between contextualism and Staussianism (each of which is given a fair hearing and indeed put to use when necessary). Jacob Abolafia, Political Studies Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521738439
    • length: 450 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 156 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.66kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau: Three Versions of the Civil Religion Project:
    1. Rousseau's problem
    2. The Machiavellian solution: paganization of Christianity
    3. Moses and Mohammed as founder-princes or legislators
    4. Re-founding and 'filiacide': Machiavelli's debt to Christianity
    5. The Hobbesian solution: Judaicization of Christianity
    6. Behemoth: Hobbesian 'theocracy' versus the real thing
    7. Geneva Manuscript: the apparent availability of a Rousseauian solution
    8. Social Contract: the ultimate unavailability of a Rousseauian solution
    Part II. Responses to (and Partial Incorporations of) Civil Religion within the Liberal Tradition:
    9. Baruch Spinoza: from civil religion to liberalism
    10. Philosophy and piety: problems in Spinoza's case for liberalism (owing to a partial reversion to civil religion)
    11. Spinoza's interpretation of the Commonwealth of the Hebrews, and why civil religion is a continuing presence in his version of liberalism
    12. John Locke: the liberal paradigm
    13. 'The gods of the philosophers' I: Locke and John Toland
    14. Bayle's republic of atheists
    15. Montesquieu's pluralized civil religion
    16. The Straussian rejection of the enlightenment as applied to Bayle and Montesquieu
    17. 'The gods of the philosophers' II: Rousseau and Kant
    18. Hume as a successor to Bayle
    19. Adam Smith's sequel to Hume (and Hobbes)
    20. Christianity as civil religion: Tocqueville's response to Rousseau
    21. John Stuart Mill's project to turn atheism into a religion
    22. Mill's critics
    23. John Rawls's genealogy of liberalism
    24. Prosaic liberalism: Montesquieu versus Machiavelli, Rousseau, Nietzsche
    Part III. Theocratic Responses to Liberalism:
    25. Joseph de Maistre: the theocratic paradigm
    26. Maistrean politics
    27. Maistre and Rousseau: theocracy versus civil religion
    28. Carl Schmitt's 'theocratic' critique of Hobbes
    Part IV. Post-Modern 'Theism': Nietzsche and Heidegger's Continuing Revolt Against Liberalism:
    29. Nietzsche, Weber, Freud: the twentieth century confronts the death of God
    30. Nietzsche's civil religion
    31. Heidegger's sequel to Nietzsche: the longing for new gods
    32. Conclusion.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Graduate Seminar in Religion, Secularism, and Modernity
    • Religion and Liberal Democracy
    • Theology and Political Theory
  • Author

    Ronald Beiner, University of Toronto
    Ronald Beiner is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has edited Hannah Arendt's Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy; his other books include Political Judgment; What's the Matter with Liberalism? (winner of the Canadian Political Science Association's 1994 Macpherson Prize); Philosophy in a Time of Lost Spirit; and Liberalism, Nationalism, Citizenship.


    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2011

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