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The Ethics of Catholicism and the Consecration of the Intellectual

Arguing that the religious values of a particular culture can account for differences in the role of intellectual elites, André Bélanger compares the very distinct traditions of French Catholicism and Anglo-Saxon Protestantism to demonstrate the strong relationship between the Catholic tradition and the emergence of an intellectual elite in secularized Catholic societies. rnrnUsing France as the most representative case of a Catholic context, Bélanger argues that as French society became more secularized intellectuals replaced the clergy as arbitrators of justice and enlightenment. Catholic morality was consolidated by the scholastic tradition and confirmed by the Counter-Reformation, providing the foundation that allowed the establishment of a lay elite. Bélanger describes the progressive takeover of positions of influence by the new elite in Catholic society and examines arguments used by thinkers from the seventeenth to the twentieth century to legitimize their positions. In contrast, the Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition, due to its emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, led to recognition of the individual’s conscience as the sole judge of her or his deeds and failed to provide intellectuals with the basis for any claim to serve as moral leaders in political affairs.rnrnStraddling a variety of disciplines, this study will be of interest to students of political science, sociology, philosophy, and history.

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