Nostalgia, memory and decline at the dawn of modern political thought
Smith, Brian Andrew.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2008.; Includes bibliographical references. This dissertation examines the relationship between our understanding of the past and the idea of decline in modern political thought. I contend that the manner in which we recall our history frames our horizon of political possibilities. Biblical and pagan thought present two different but overlapping interpretations of the cosmos and time. In their original form, each provides its adherents with definite limits to human existence and erects boundaries to our ability to alter the foundations of political and social life. In modernity each of these undergoes a profound transformation that alters man's perceptions of life and its meaning. Specifically, they foster two distinct but overlapping modes of interpretation in memory and nostalgia. Using the writings of Rousseau, Burke, Tocqueville, and Nietzsche, I seek to defend the importance of historical memory because of the way it fosters political constraint---particularly amidst political and social decline. Understanding the possibilities and dangers implicit within these ideas, we may better realize the potential for maintaining free societies.
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