Repurposing Europe

"Repurposing Europe," First Things, April: 2016.

In this English excerpt (and reworking) of his new, highly controversial book La Situation de la France, Manent argues that Europe and the European nations must return to their Christian roots.


For the Frenchmen who lived through World War II, the defining event of their lives was quintessentially political. It was the great refusal, embodied by General Charles de Gaulle, to accept the defeat of June 1940. With that refusal came a determined commitment to reestablish national sovereignty. This was more than a matter of overthrowing German occupation. As de Gaulle recognized, it required Frenchmen to recover the spiritual independence of France, to recommit themselves to the project of building a unique and identifiable nation.

For the next generation, the events of May 1968 were their decisive experience. Both its partisans and critics agree that after May ’68 we became a society that undoes its bonds. France was no longer seen as a distinctive nation that strives for unity and independence. Collective rules, both political and social, were delegitimized. The citizen of action was succeeded by the individual of enjoyment. This movement appeared to be very political, even revolutionary, with its various groups competing to be the most radical ideologically. In reality, political differences were leveled in a flood of slogans, and the scene was prepared for the great withdrawal of loyalty from the community, a withdrawal that would take place over the years to follow.

First Things