Is the mainstream a flood? Voegelin’s reception and political theory in Portugal

Paper prepared for the Boston Roundtable, XLIV APSA Meeting, Boston, 3-4 September, 1998

... José Adelino Maltez, a professor at ISCSP and an independent thinker, in Princípios de Ciência Política, Lisboa, 1996 and other works, switched from his school tradition to a position more akin to neo-classical political philosophy. ... 15. José Adelino Maltez, of ISCSP, Lisbon, has been busy with Voegelin since more than a decade, alongside other American-based Political thinkers such as Leo-Strauss, Carl Friedrich and Hannah Arendt. Already in his report Sobre a Ciência Política, Lisboa, 1994, he had presented Voegelin as a critic of political pseudo-theory and ideologies resulting from modernity and one of the foremost contemporary references in political ideas. In his preface to the 1998 Portuguese translation of The Nature of Law and Other Related Legal Writings (translated by F. V. Ferreira) he refers to Voegelin as "an outstanding personification of the intimate relationship between post-war European and American thought, (...pertaining to a) generation that kept in the New World, the ark of theoretical arcanes of Western and European liberty, something held by Voegelin himself as the classical and Christian science of man, where the Athenian ground, Platonic and Aristotelic, reanimated by Roman Stoa and by the judaic-Christian spiritual force, produced an active humanism that never fails to be reborn". The specific problem of Law begins with the unbalance between reason and revelation as sources of order in society, a trouble provoked by Gnostic doctrinal movements that tried to order society by blending normative authority with power authority. Thus, Voegelin held Natural Law as a tentative reaction to injustice experienced in concrete situations and as a set of substantive rules that demand authority as an expression of the true nature of man and society. Natural law can only be developed where a concept of human nature is formed in opposition to natural order. Such a model reacts against the contractualist approach, as generated in periods of moral and spiritual crisis, when societies try to build their order starting from the contractual relationships established by its members. Voegelin is presented by Maltez as a neo-classical political philosopher, struggling against all forms of Positivism and Social Engineering. He places him alongside Leo-Strauss, and Hannah Arendt; Hayek’s liberal conservantism recuperating Adam Smith; Eric Weil’s neo-hegelianism, recuperating Rousseau. His conclusions are akin to the republicanism of Blandine Barret-Kriegel, Simone Goyard-Fabre and Luc Ferry. He coalesces with conclusions from Ottfrid Hoeffe, and even from the Frankfurt School, and Rawls' restoration of Kant, against utilitarianism. There is only one theoretical worthwhile program: to compel power to obey the rule of law.