On Religion and Rational Control
Bradley Lecture by Harvey C. Mansfield

“Rational control” is the subjection of society to reason as opposed to superstition, prejudice, or tradition, with the aim of getting us to behave better. Alexis de Tocqueville says this idea or practice began with the French monarchy; a more recent example is Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Cass R. Sunstein and Richard H. Thaler. Tocqueville thinks that rational control leads to “mild despotism” of the kind he describes in Democracy in America, and he proposes an understanding of religion that would oppose it and provide an alternative that is more favorable to political liberty.

Harvey C. Mansfield is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government at Harvard University and a visiting scholar at AEI. He has written on Edmund Burke and the nature of political parties, on Machiavelli and the invention of indirect government, in defense of a defensible liberalism and in favor of a constitutional American political science. He has also written on the discovery and development of the theory of executive power, and has translated three books of Machiavelli and (with the aid of his wife) Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (University of Chicago Press, 2000). Among his most recent books is Manliness (Yale University Press, 2006). Mr. Mansfield was the chairman of the Harvard Government Department from 1973 to 1977, has held Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, and has been a fellow at the National Humanities Center. He won the Joseph R. Levenson award for his teaching at Harvard, received the Sidney Hook Memorial award from the National Association of Scholars, and, in 2004, accepted a National Humanities Medal from the president. He has hardly left Harvard since his first arrival in 1949, and he has been on its faculty since 1962.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

Defeating ISIS: AEI experts weigh-in before the president’s address on Wednesday
image Degrading, defeating, and destroying the Islamic State
image Wealth Building Home Loan: Building wealth through homeownership and retirement savings
image The $3 iPhone
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 15
    MON
  • 16
    TUE
  • 17
    WED
  • 18
    THU
  • 19
    FRI
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Constitution as political theory

Please join us for the third-annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture as James Ceasar, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, explores some of the Constitution’s most significant contributions to political theory, focusing on themes that have been largely unexamined in current scholarship.

Event Registration is Closed
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 8:10 a.m. – Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 1:30 p.m.
Third international conference on housing risk: New risk measures and their applications

We invite you to join us for this year’s international conference on housing risk — cosponsored by the Collateral Risk Network and AEI International Center on Housing Risk — which will focus on new mortgage and collateral risk measures and their applications.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 2:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Speaker of the House John Boehner on resetting America’s economic foundation

Please join us as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his five-point policy vision to reset America’s economy.

Friday, September 19, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Reforming Medicare: What does the public think?

Please join us as a panel of distinguished experts explore the implications of the report and the consumer role in shaping the future of Medicare.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.