Political thought grouped under the rubric “Christian Democracy” is often considered as profoundly unoriginal and as the product of politicians and party activists (rather than political philosophers). The talk argues that there is an important body of thought responding to the challenge of how to reconcile Christianity and modern democracy in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe. In particular, it traces three strategies for finding a place for Christianity—and Catholicism in particular—in the modern democratic order (or, put differently, strategies to make democracy safe for Catholicism): the idea of creating or re-creating a Christian demos; the notion of constraining the demos through recognizably Christian institutions; and, lastly, Christian Democratic party politics. The talk will also ask what is left of this tradition today.
Jan-Werner Müller is a professor of politics at Princeton and currently also a fellow at the IAS at CEU. His most recent publication is What is Populism?, which has been translated into 16 languages.