Kevin Honeycutt, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, inaugurated a special series on the French intellectual Bertrand de Jouvenel, one of the most important anti-totalitarian thinkers of the twentieth century. Professor Honeycutt completed a dissertation on Jouvenel at Emory University.
Over dinner at the AHI on 21 September, Professor Honeycutt conversed with students and faculty about On Power (1945), the first volume of the trilogy that constitutes Jouvenel’s magnum opus. In this volume, Jouvenel attempts nothing less than a metaphysical understanding of the political in order to explain the extraordinary growth of centralized state power in the twentieth century. Jouvenel ranges his remarkable discussion from antiquity to modernity. Taken together, the three volumes provide something of a primer in the history of Western civilization.
On Power sounds a dire warning about the inexorable logic of the personal as political in the rise of the totalitarian nightmares of fascism and communism as well as in the related decline of what he calls “social authorities” such as the private associations that have histoically mediated relations between the state and the individual. After dinner, attendants moved from the AHI banquet room to the main dinining area for drinks and dessert with which to fortify themselves for the last of three hours of discussion.
“I am grateful to the Edmund Burke Association and to the Alexander Hamilton Institute for inviting me to discuss the thought of Bertrand de Jouvenel,” said Professor Honeycutt. “It was a distinct pleasure to consider his work in such a beautiful setting and with such a thoughtful and articulate audience. The participating students, in particular, exhibited poise, intelligence, and good humor; they are a credit to the Institute and to Hamilton College. Plaudits must also go to Professor Christopher Hill for his erudition and kindness and to the AHI for its vision and energy in implementing the discussion series. The Institute is truly doing great things, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of some of them firsthand.”