Bruce Thornton reviews The Conservative Foundations of the Liberal Order: Defending Democracy Against Its Modern Enemies and Immoderate Friends, by Daniel J. Mahoney (ISI Books, 208 pp., $26.95)
Across the political spectrum, the recent popular uprisings in the Arab world have inspired hymns to democratic freedom. Whether liberals who once scorned President Bush’s “freedom agenda,” or neoconservatives asserting its vindication, many are celebrating history’s apparent progress toward its destined political fulfillment in democracy and freedom, even in the recalcitrant Middle East.
Such uncritical optimism on the part of democracy’s “immoderate friends,” as French political philosopher Pierre Manent calls them, is one of the themes of The Conservative Foundations of the Liberal Order, Daniel Mahoney’s important new book. A professor of political science at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, Mahoney is among our most insightful political thinkers. He has written widely on the thought of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Bertrand de Jouvenal, and Raymond Aron, and on various contemporary issues, combining a deep historical understanding of political theory with a broad knowledge of contemporary political philosophers—particularly Continental writers not well known in America. In his latest book, he brings intellectual rigor and clarity to our often simplistic conversation about liberal democracy.