The Maurras phenomenon deserves to be studied seriously for an understanding of European history in the first half of the twentieth century—the struggle for and against democracy—and also because ignoring it leaves a vacuum for misjudgments in political theory and practice. Half a century after his death, the picture is rather clear even if it has to be unearthed from under layers of taboo and other layers of newspeak. Like all the important political writers—Plato, St. Augustine, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Max Weber—Maurras reacted to what he perceived as a dangerous decline of sobriety in politics, but he refused to become “universally valid” in a century demanding global diagnoses and global remedies. His sole interest was France.
In the eyes of his critics, he thus became a narrow nationalist, but not in the eyes of those aware of his enormous influence and of his attempt to integrate political thought with a Mediterranean overview, and thus with a classical vision. In a romantic and sentimental age, Maurras tried to rehabilitate rationality as a political interpretation of the real, although he was not too sanguine about the “future of intelligence,” the title of one of his volumes (L’avenir de l’intelligence, 1905).
Much more influential was the above mentioned Démocratie religieuse (1906–1913) in which he tears to shreds the utopian infiltration of Church doctrine and politics. In a way, Maritain’s public writing career was an answer to the thesis of these volumes, and it is perhaps not incorrect to opine that the second Vatican Council (1962–1965) itself meant to be a final liquidation of the Maurrassian critique of a social and sentimental Catholicism. The controversy is not likely to end soon.
in, Charles Maurras, Shaper of an Age
Thomas Molnar (MA 41:4, Fall 1999) - 12/11/08