The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis

Oxford Univ. Aug. 2018. 280p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780190864651. $29.95. HIST
With the existential battle between fascism and democracy starting to turn in the Allies favor by 1943, the unresolved question was whether democracy had the inherent resources to sustain the peace. Jacobs (humanities, Baylor Univ.; How To Think) presents five intellectuals—Jacques Maritain, T.S. Elliot, W.H. Auden, C.S. Lewis, and Simone Weil—who separately maintained that democratic societies needed to be grounded in a humanistic vision, specifically a Christian one, in contrast to positivistic and pragmatic footings. Although these individuals rarely interacted in their lifetimes, Jacobs develops themes in which their ideas were shared (for instance, the question of righteousness of prosecuting the war). Jacobs concludes that at World War II's close, the advocates for Christian Humanism came to the field too late.
VERDICT Jacobs seems to have written this with an eye to the time between the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and the events of 9/11, when it seemed that democracy had finally achieved peace, only to find it widely rejected. His look at how these five figures struggled with similar turns of events is worth pondering.

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