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Democratic Faith : New Forum Books - Patrick J. Deneen

Democratic Faith

New Forum Books

Hardcover Published: 25th July 2005
ISBN: 9780691118710
Number Of Pages: 392

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The American political reformer Herbert Croly wrote, "For better or worse, democracy cannot be disentangled from an aspiration toward human perfectibility." "Democratic Faith" is at once a trenchant analysis and a powerful critique of this underlying assumption that informs democratic theory. Patrick Deneen argues that among democracy's most ardent supporters there is an oft-expressed belief in the need to "transform" human beings in order to reconcile the sometimes disappointing reality of human self-interest with the democratic ideal of selfless commitment. This "transformative impulse" is frequently couched in religious language, such as the need for political "redemption." This is all the more striking given the frequent accompanying condemnation of traditional religious belief that informs the "democratic faith."

At the same time, because so often this democratic ideal fails to materialize, democratic faith is often subject to a particularly intense form of disappointment. A mutually reinforcing cycle of faith and disillusionment is frequently exhibited by those who profess a democratic faith--in effect imperiling democratic commitments due to the cynicism of its most fervent erstwhile supporters.

Deneen argues that democracy is ill-served by such faith. Instead, he proposes a form of "democratic realism" that recognizes democracy not as a regime with aspirations to perfection, but that justifies democracy as the regime most appropriate for imperfect humans. If democratic faith aspires to transformation, democratic realism insists on the central importance of humility, hope, and charity.

"This book offers a serious philosophical and historical basis for current democratic theory. It makes a valuable contribution to the topic of religion and politics and is worthy of careful study. It is well written and immensely readable."--Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae "Following in the footsteps of Christopher Lasch, [Patrick Deneen] is concerned to expose what he perceives as the ill-placed object of the democratic faithful -- a trust in human capacities for self-government and progress so perfectionist that it entails the transformation of humans into the divine creatures they can never be.? Unlike so much Christian commentary on democracy, Deneen pursues his critique not as prolegomena for the advocacy of an alternative faith but as a way of proposing a 'chastened' democratic faith, one that might count him among the faithful."--J. Ronald Engel, Journal of Religion "Whether they be 'deliberative liberals,' whose confidence in rationality, science, and technique inspires their democratic quest, or 'agonistic democrats,' those animated by a foundational belief in the citizenship-forming capacity of conflict, these true believers insist on the possibility of profound social transformation with a hope that leans far more on faith than on empirical evidence. Deneen's probing of the origins of this faith is brilliant--an exacting, at times exciting venture into pivotal texts... What we all need, Deneen implies, is not the absence of faith but a better faith, one that clarifies vision, forges better ties, forces a different reading of our past, and takes us down, down, into the depths of who we, as Americans, as Westerners, and as human beings are."--Eric Miller, Books & Culture

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Preface: Worshiping Democracy: The Pantheon and the Goddess of Democracyp. xiii
Introduction: Dynamics of Democratic Faithp. 1
Democratic Faith and Its Discontents
Faith in Manp. 15
Democratic Transformationp. 50
Democracy as Trial: Toward a Critique of Democratic Faithp. 84
Voices of the Democratic Faithful
Protagoras Unbound: The Democratic Mythology of Protagoras's "Great Speech"p. 119
Civil Religion and the Democratic Faith of Rousseaup. 140
American Faith: The Translation of Religious Faith to Democratic Faithp. 166
Friendly Critics of Democratic Faith
"A Pattern Laid Up in Heaven": Plato's Democratic Idealp. 191
The Only Permanent State: Tocqueville on Religion and Democracyp. 214
Hope in America: The Chastened Faith of Reinhold Niebuhr and Christopher Laschp. 239
Conclusion: A Model of Democratic Charityp. 270
Notesp. 289
Indexp. 361
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691118710
ISBN-10: 069111871X
Series: New Forum Books
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 392
Published: 25th July 2005
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.23 x 16.26  x 2.97
Weight (kg): 0.71