Conscience and Power

Conscience and Power: The Contest for Civilization in the West

In this book, Dr. Richard Bishirjian examines how “the West” was reshaped after the fall of the Roman Empire and how the civilization that arose has grappled with our desire for justice and the necessities of power and political control.

Conscience and Power examines how this contest between Western man’s sense of justice and the rule of nation states has had consequences for democracy in America.

The author of Conscience and Power asks if the weaknesses and fragility of popular government have reached the point that Americans will be open to appeals leading to a cessation of democratic politics.

What is the basis of our consciousness of justice, and what forces have shaped the character of the American regime? And are there solutions–improvements even–that can save democracy in America in the 21st century?

Conscience and Power brings years of teaching and writing about the Western tradition of political philosophy to examine the fragility and possible failure of American democracy–in the 21st century. What we in the West inherited from ancient Israel, the ancient Greeks and Romans and an enduring Christendom formed during the Middle Ages is no longer central to American higher education.

Conscience and Power concludes with these words:

“Let us hope that somewhere in some city, town or village in the United States there are two or three young persons living today who will have the virtue, character, wisdom and will to resolve the conflict between conscience and power and lead their countrymen away from the dangers we now face.”


Introduction (An examination of life’s principle that all being things have an ending, the American nation, too, will reach an end of its life. The great question we ask is whether the disarray in American civil society today is evidence that this ending is near.)

Chapter 1. How We Got Here:
Ancient Israel
Ancient Greeks and Romans
The Middle Ages

(This chapter explores the Western tradition of order from ancient Israel, through the discovery of transcendent origin of “nature” by the ancient Greek “natural philosophers,” the fashioning by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle of philosophy as a mode of existence in truth, the Gospel Movement and the shaping of “the West” in the “middle” ages by a vigorous Christianity. Recovery of this history as a living force is essential to the future of democracy in America.)

Chapter 2. Esprit Revolutionaire (An examination of French utopian thought and centralization of power in France that culminated in a revolution that destroyed the French monarchy and introduced “the Terror” that was to become a feature of totalitarianism in the 20th century.)

Chapter 3. Modern Political Religion (If lessons learned from the French revolution were not sufficient, creative minds fashioned philosophical movements that sustained “ideology” as a new form of conscience.)

Chapter 4. The Enlightenment’s Dead End (An examination of the modern transvaluation of the Western philosophical tradition by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. Ideas are examined that shaped a War of Independence and the American regime fashioned at Philadelphia in 1787.)

Chapter 5. Four Books about Democracy in America
A. Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (The relevance of the findings of Tocqueville during his tour of the United States in 1831.)

B. Tocqueville’s The Old Régime and the French Revolution. (So much of what Tocqueville writes in L’Ancien régime et la revolution seems familiar to contemporary American readers today. That is because there are indications of a possible revolution in the United States. If we love America as much as Tocqueville loved France, we should study carefully what, in hindsight, Tocqueville believed was responsible for the destruction of the ancient order of the society and politics of the great French nation.)

C. Order and Legitimacy (Francis Graham Wilson’s examination of unlikely parallels between traditionalist political philosophy in Catholic Spain and American principles of democracy).

D. Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (How this political philosopher protested the stripping of the American soul of received truths and their replacement with a “democratic soul.”)

Chapter 6. The Left University (James Piereson’s examination in Shattered Consensus of how Keynes’ economic theories merged with a new class of university professionals who transformed higher education into a “Left University.”)

Chapter 7. Closing of the American Soul to Religion (The decline of faith-based colleges and universities examined by James Burtchaell’s The Dying of the Light.)

Chapter 8. Daimonic Souls and Recovery from Disorder (Though the disorder and moral decline of American society is visible, the invisible force of men and women whose souls are daimonic always sustains American culture. Sometimes called “common sense,” that ability to recover from disorder has deep roots in the discovery of divine reality in the West.)

Chapter 9. Conclusion
A. Glossary: The Middle Ages
B. Historical Timelines
C. Billboard’s “Best Singles” 1942-2016
D. About the Author

Current Word Count: 64,400 words.
Completion Schedule: The final manuscript is ready for submission.