Friday, March 16, 2012

Craiutu's "'Decalogue' of Moderation"

Last night, I finished reading Aurelian Craiutu's A Virtue for Courageous Minds: Moderation in French Political Thought, 1748-1830 (Princeton 2012). Among other things I learned, Jacques Necker had hidden depth (hidden, at least, from me) as a political thinker. I also learned a lot about the work of his amazing daughter Madame de Stael, and her contemporary Benjamin Constant. However, the book is worth buying for the Prologue, Introduction, and Epilogue alone, where Aurelian makes his most important points about why his history of moderate thought in France, before, during, and after the Revolution, matters. His arguments are compelling.

I especially enjoyed the "Decalogue" - 10 commandments - he provides in the Epilogue for approaching the question of what political moderation is and what roles moderate political thinkers play in society. Here is the list, without his accompanying explanations, which every social scientist might benefit from reading:

  1. Do not assume that moderation has only one face.
  2. Try to understand why some people are temperamentally inclined to moderation why others are not.
  3. Pay special attention to the constitutional elements of moderation.
  4. Examine the concrete ways in which moderate agendas promote pluralism and the balance of powers, values, and interests while also fighting for the preservation of individual rights.
  5. Remember that moderates do not lack political vision.
  6. Honor those who try to keep the ship of state on an even keel.
  7. Pay due attention to the eclecticism of moderation.
  8. Do not assume that moderation is in its essence only a conservative virtue.
  9. Do not forget that moderates can sometimes promote radical ideas and that moderation is not a synonym for apathy, complacency, or indecisiveness.
  10. Remember that moderation is not a virtue for everyone or for all seasons.
I can hardly wait for the sequel to this book, dealing with the next generation of French moderate thinkers, including Guizot, Tocqueville, and Cousin (among others). I believe Aurelian is also planning a volume on moderate thought (Burke, Hume, et al.) in the British enlightenment.

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