Bertrand de Jouvenel (1903-1987) ranks as one of the most important–and understudied–political thinkers of the twentieth century. In an age of specialization, the breadth of genius can bring neglect. A French intellectual who was one of the charter members of the Mont Pelerin society, Jouvenel possessed a staggering range of erudition. His magnum opus consists of a trilogy: On Power (1945), Sovereignty (1955), and The Pure Theory of Politics (1963). These volumes (more than 1100 pages collectively) range widely over Western history, philosophy, and political theory from antiquity to modernity. Jouvenel’s scholarship combines a powerful critique of radical individualism, social contractarianism, and of modern utopian illusions about progress with deep reflections on the origins of totalitarianism and the meaning of justice and the common good. Participants in the Betrand de Jouvenel group will read Jouvenel’s trilogy cover-to-cover.
In December 2007, the Alexander Hamilton Institute inaugurated the Edmund Burke Association (EBA). Its mission: the intensive exploration of political thought and political theory related to Western civilization and to the development of American ideals and institutions. The EBA opened its doors to Hamilton College undergraduates interested in a free, frank, and civil exchange of ideas. During the fall semster 2011, the EBA will sponsor a series devoted to the study of Betrand de Jouvenel. Guest speakers will include Kevin Honeycutt, Sweet Briar College; Brian Anderson, The Manhattan Institute; Dan Mahoney, Assumption College; and Annelien De Dijn, University of Amsterdam. Details of their appearance will be forthcoming.
The Bertrand de Jouvenel series forms part of the Alexander Hamilton Institute’s 2011-2012 programming on the idea and institution of limited government.