This analysis of the thought and action of Charles de Gaulle explores the intellectual foundations of Gaullist statecraft. Mahoney's careful exegesis of de Gaulle's major writings and speeches, reveals a penetrating political thinker as well as a major political actor. He explains de Gaulle to an American public that too often sees him as a posturing figure suffering from an exaggerated and misplaced sense of personal and national grandeur. Mahoney shows that de Gaulle's defense of the "grandeur" of France is tied to a fundamentally classical view of human nature and politics. In elucidating de Gaulle's political self-understanding, Mahoney highlights the foundation of his noble but elusive moderation. Mahoney shows how de Gaulle repeatedly and explicitly rejected the cult of the Nietzschean superman, the Bonapartist separation of grandeur from moderation, and all temptations of personal and ideological despotism. He explicates de Gaulle's self-understanding as a statesman or "man of character" who comes to the service of a democratic political order in a time of crisis.
He articulates de Gaulle's relationship to classical and Christian thought, his place in the French tradition, his profound debts to the Catholic poet-philosopher Charles Peguy, as well as his important affinities with Alexis de Tocqueville on the need to remain faithful to the dual imperatives of democracy and grandeur. In addition, the book discusses the principal moments of de Gaulle's statecraft from his "appeal" to resistance in June, 1940, and his founding of a new French Republic in 1958, to his articulation of a "Europe of Nations" in the 1960's. In doing so, Mahoney thoughtfully clarifies the Gaullist understanding of the "problem" of democracy: The democratic statesman must correct the corrosive acids of modern individualism, while accepting that democratic individualism sets the inescapable contours of political action in our time. Written in clear and non-technical language for both a scholarly and general audience. De Gaulle will be of interest to students of modern European political history, contemporary political theory, and those concerned with statecraft or statesmanship.show more