Statesman As Thinker


The Statesman as Thinker addresses the role of the thoughtful statesman in sustaining free and lawful political communities. It aims to restore fundamental distinctions–between the noble statesman, the run-of-the mill politician, and the despot who subverts freedom and civilization–that have largely been lost in contemporary political thought and discourse. Reducing politics to the mere struggle for power, to a barely concealed cynicism and nihilism, tells us little about the true nature of political life.

This book provides thoughtful and elegant portraits of, and reflections on, a series of statesmen who struggled to preserve civilized freedom during times of crisis: Solon overcoming insidious class conflict in ancient Athens; Cicero using all the powers of rhetoric and statesmanship to preserve republican liberty in Rome against Caesar’s encroaching despotism; Burke defending ordered liberty against Jacobin tyranny and ideological fanaticism in revolutionary France; Lincoln preserving the American republic and putting an end to the evil of chattel slavery; Churchill eloquently defending liberty and law and opposing Nazi and Communist despotism with all his might; de Gaulle defending the honor of France during World War II; Havel fighting Communist totalitarianism through artful and courageous dissidence before 1989, and then leading the Czech Republic with dignity and grace until his retirement in 2005. There are also collateral treatments of Washington, Pyotr Stolypin (the last great leader of Russia before the revolutions of 1917), Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Nelson Mandela.

This book explores the writing and rhetoric of statesman who were also political thinkers of the first order–particularly Cicero, Burke, Lincoln, Churchill, de Gaulle, and Havel. It attempts to make sense of the mixture of magnanimity (greatness of soul, as Aristotle called it) and moderation or self-restraint that defines the statesman as thinker at his or her best. That admirable mixture of greatness, courage, and moderation owes much to classical and Christian wisdom and to the noble desire to protect the inheritance of civilization against rapacious and destructive despotic regimes and ideologies.


SKU (ISBN): 9781641772419
Daniel Mahoney
Binding: Cloth Text
Published: 2022
Publisher: Encounter Books


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