Globalization and Liberalism

978-1-58731-334-9
Forthcoming Books
Cloth $30
292 pages, 6" x 9", acknowledgments, notes, references, vita, index publication date: April 2018

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Globalization and Liberalism

An Essay on Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Manent

Shelley, Trevor

Many in the West today talk about the emergent unity of humanity, as social scientists examine the world through “global values,” assessing “global opinion”; economists study the “global economy” and “global finance”; historians write of “universal history;” legal scholars speak of “global domestic politics” and “world society,” while advocating “transnational justice”; political pundits announce the death of the nation-state. One could list additional examples illustrating the same apparent fact: a growing sense of global unity, and a universalist perspective on things social, economic, legal, historical, and political. It is not self-evident, however, whether this phenomenon – often referred to as “globalization” – is an extension of liberalism, or instead an accident following upon it. One may wonder whether all liberal thinkers embrace it, and whether opponents are necessarily anti-liberal thinkers? This book argues that if some thinkers are partisans of universalism, and certain others are partisans of particularism, there is nonetheless a moderate, middle, and liberal, perspective, as found in the works of Baron de Montesquieu, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Pierre Manent.

While both globalization and liberalism are often studied, there is no work engaging a study of globalization through the liberal thought of these particular three French political philosophers, which this book is the first to do, bringing the insights of these great thinkers to bear on the salient phenomenon of globalization. Herein “globalization” refers to the apparent phenomenon of a unifying humanity, as well as the homogenization of the worlds’ peoples, buttressed as it is by a philosophical perspective that is altogether universalist. Strict advocates of this tendency long for the transcendence of traditional and particularistic political bodies, such as the nation-state, and imagine a world without any relevant political differences, borders, and conflict.

While many liberal thinkers and a great deal of Western elite opinion embrace this viewpoint, the three thinkers under consideration all offer arguments to moderate this desire. Insofar as Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Manent each recognize certain benefits to globalization, they nonetheless defend the importance of distinct and particular sovereign political communities. According to the political psychology of the tradition of thought traced herein, human flourishing and satisfaction is best achieved among selfgoverning individuals. Thus, the liberal thought of these three French thinkers offers the intellectual resources to defend sovereign and self-governing entities without falling into parochialism, ideological particularism, or hostile forms of nationalism.

Trevor Shelley is a native of Calgary, Alberta. After an itinerant course in this globalized world – including completing a PhD in Political Science at Louisiana State University – he since returned home to the place where the infinite prairies meet the majestic Rockies. He has written and published numerous articles and reviews, and is a regular columnist for Troy Media.

We live in an age where ”progressive” intellectuals presuppose that true democracy demands the affirmation of “global values” and the drive toward a world government, a ”universal and homogenous state.” Intellectuals, journalists, and educators bemoan the effects of “globalization” even as they uncritically endorse cosmopolitanism and dismiss national attachments as parochial and outdated. They confuse thoughtful patriotism – and commitment to the self-governing nation – with the narrowest form of nationalism. In a wonderfully lucid and learned essay, Trevor Shelley recovers a humane liberal tradition, from Montesquieu to Manent, that takes the political seriously and does full justice to the legitimate claims of both universality and particularity.

Whether discussing Tocqueville's critique of the pantheistic reveries of democratic man or Pierre Manent's erudite defense of the nation, the political form that provides the indispensable framework for democratic selfgovernment, Shelley thoughtfully illumines the place and limits of globalization in a democratic age. —Daniel J. Mahoney, Augustine Chair in Distinguished Scholarship, Assumption College.