“Modernity and the theologico-political problem in the thought of Joseph de Maistre and Fyodor Dostoyevsky: A comprehensive comparison” – Alexandru RACU

Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the PhD degree in Political Science, University of Ottawa, 2013 [PDF]

Abstract: In this thesis I compare the views of Joseph de Maistre and Fyodor Dostoyevsky with regard to the relation between modernity and the theologico-political problem. I integrate this comparison within the general context of the reflection concerning modernity and the theologico-political problem, as well as within the context of two Christian theological traditions, Catholic and Orthodox, on the basis of which the two authors develop their religious and political thought. In particular, I analyze the views of the two authors with regard to the origins and the defining traits of modernity. Likewise, I present their opinions concerning the consequences which are inherent in the modern project. Viewing modernity first and foremost as an attempt to build a secular world that would define itself by its opposition to what both authors regard as authentic Christianity, Maistre and Dostoyevsky emphasize the fact that, having theological origins that mark the totality of its becoming, modernity should be understood on the basis of a theologicopolitical reflection. Associating the modern ambition to build a secular world with the fate of the biblical Tower of Babel, both authors adopt a prophetic posture, announcing the collapse of the modern project as well as the ultimate eschatological resolution of the modern crisis. Yet, the two authors are differentiated by their interpretations of the relation between modernity and the theologico-political problem, identifying differently the theological origins of the modern crisis. In this sense, while according to Maistre modernity originates in the Protestant Reformation, for Dostoyevsky, modernity’s origins must be located in the transformations of Western Christianity that have finally lead to the latter’s separation from Eastern Orthodoxy. These differences of interpretation lead to the articulation of two different responses to the modern crisis, which are rooted in two different Christian theological traditions. Consequently, if in reaction to the modern crisis Maistre affirms the Catholic principle of authority, whose highest expression is the concept of papal infallibility, Dostoyevsky opposes to this crisis the Orthodox principle of brotherhood in Christ. The critique of modernity culminates in the thought of the two authors with an approach of the complex and troubling problem of theodicy, which, Maistre and Dostoyevsky believe, stands at the origin of the modern opposition to Christianity and its traditional institutions.



Maistre’s critique of modernity and the coordinates of his counter-modern project
1.1. Introduction
1.2. Catholicism and Protestantism in their theological
and political expressions
1.3. Providence and natural law in the thought of Maistre
1.4. The crisis of monarchical absolutism and its theocratic resolution
1.5. From the contradictions of Rousseau’s Social Contract
to the justification of Maistre’s theocracy
1.6. The nihilism of modernity

The contradictions of Maistre’s counter-modern project and his vision of history and providence
2.1. Introduction
2.2. The decisionist moment of Maistre’s ecclesiology
2.3. The contradictions of Maistre’s attempt to overturn the Enlightenment
2.4. From decisionism to a “philosophy of mystification”: Joseph de Maistre as Grand Inquisitor
2.5 . The providential overcoming of the decisionist moment of Maistrian thought
2.6 . From the temptation of panpolitism to prophetic apolitism
2.7 . The French Revolution as providential event and the providential character of violence
2.8 . The Tower of Babel, Pentecost and the New Age of the Holy Spirit
2.8.1 Josephus a Floribus and “transcendental Christianity”
2.8.2 The paradox of a “heterodox orthodoxy”

Russia and Orthodoxy in the thought of Maistre
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Joseph de Maistre and Russia
3.3. The Maistrian critique of Orthodox ecclesiology
3.4. Greece, Byzantium and modernity

The theological and political thought of the Slavophiles
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Slavophilism and Westernism
4.3. Ecclesiology and epistemology
4.4. Russia, the West and modernity
4.5. The Slavophile political thought
4.6. The Christian democratic Utopia versus theocratic Machiavellianism
4.7. Between Orthodoxy and Romanticism
4.8. Joseph de Maistre and the Slavophiles: A summary of similarities and differences

The West and modernity in the thought of Dostoyevsky
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Hermeneutical perspectives
5.3. Catholicism, Protestantism and the theological origins of modernity
5.4. Dostoyevsky and “the modern idea”
5.5. The bourgeoisie, the proletariat, and the failure of the ideals of the French Revolution
5.6. The man from the underground
5.7. The collapse of the ant-heap and the necessary alliance between Catholicism and Socialism
5.8. Western individualism and Russian Orthodox brotherhood
5.9. Nihilism, the man-god and “the final Western solution
to the crisis of order”
5.10. Dostoyevsky and Maistre on Revolution

Dostoyevsky’s response to the modern crisis
6.1. Introduction
6.2. The repentant return to the People
6.3. Redeeming the Enlightenment versus L’Autorité Contre les Lumières
6.4. Nationalism, messianism and Christian socialism
6.5. Utopia and Eschatology
6.6. Incarnation and Resurrection
6.7. Between “Churchification” and Apocalypse

The problem of theodicy in the thought of Joseph de Maistre and Fyodor Dostoyevsky
7.1. Introduction
7.2. Evil and the cosmic order
7.3. Antitheodicy and Revolution
7.4. Gnosticism, theological voluntarism and the origins of modernity
7.5. The problem of theodicy in Les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg
7.6. The problem of theodicy in The Brothers Karamazov
7.7. A three-level dialogue between Joseph de Maistre, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Ivan Karamazov




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