From a Thomistica.net interview with Dr. Raymond Dennehy about two recently re-issued works of Jacques Maritain’s political philosophy, Christianity and Democracy: The Rights of Man and The Natural Law (Ignatius Press; the book is also available as as electronic book download):
Thomistica.net: When were Christianity and Democracy and The Rights of Man and the Natural Law originally published?
Thomistica.net: Could you tell us something about the context of these books? Why did Maritain write them? How do they relate to his other work, including his other work in political theory?
Dr. Dennehy: When the outbreak of World War II made it impossible for Maritain and his wife to return to France from his lecture tour in Canada and the United States, he continued to support his countrymen by working with the Free French in New York City. Through radio addresses and publications, he called the attention of Americans to the condition of the French people, appealing for food and money for French relief. Throughout the war, Maritain also worked with the New School in New York City, producing works of a more philosophical and scholarly nature on the subjects of democracy, totalitarianism, and human rights, such as Les Droits de l ‘Homme et la Loi Naturelle; miniature editions of Christianisme et Democratie were dropped by British Royal Air Force planes over occupied France in 1944.
One way that these works relate to other of Maritain’s works is that the theme of the relation between philosophy and faith constitutes an idee fixe in his writings. Consider, for example, his Integral Humanism, the chapter in his Man and the State entitled “The Democratic Charter,” Scholasticism and Politics, and An Essay on Christian Philosophy. Maritain was convinced that the ideals of modern democracy are Christian in origin and that the values of Christianity energize its institutions. (See my foreword in the Ignatius Press edition of Christianity and Democracy and The Rights of Man and the Natural Law for an account of how Maritain sees the relation between faith and speculative philosophy and faith and practical philosophy and thus for what he understands the term “Christian philosophy” to mean.)
None of which diminishes Maritain’s personal drama in reconciling faith and reason. Despairing of ever finding truth (their teachers at the Sorbonne were skeptics and materialists), Maritain and his wife, Raissa, entered into a suicide pact: if they could not find meaning in materialism within one year, they would kill themselves.
Read the entire interview. The second part of the interview is also available on the Thomistica.net site.
• Jacques Maritain on "Four Characteristics of a Society of Free Men", from Christianity and Democracy: The Rights of Man and The Natural Law.
• Jacques Maritain on the "the liquidation of the modern world", from the same work.