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Title: In pursuit of salvation : Woodrow Wilson and American liberal internationalism as secularized eschatology
Author: Babík, Milan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2676 4770
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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This work reinterprets the idea of progress at the heart of Woodrow Wilson’s liberal internationalism through the lens of secularization theory, which holds that modern philosophies of progress stand on religious foundations and represent secularized vestiges of biblical eschatology. Previous applications of this insight reveal a selective pattern: Whereas totalitarian and illiberal narratives of progress such as Nazism and Marxism-Leninism have received lavish attention and spawned extensive political religions literature, liberal progressivism has been ignored. This dissertation rectifies this neglect. Initial chapters present the biblical conception of history as the myth of salvation, introduce secularization through the writings of Karl Löwith and Hans Blumenberg, respectively its principal proponent and main critic, and test the limits of the concept to confirm its applicability to liberal progressivism. The main part aims secularization theory at Wilson’s idea of progress in the broader context of American liberal thought. From the 17th-century Puritan vision of a “city upon a hill” to the 19th-century doctrine of “manifest destiny”, biblical eschatology defined the way Americans envisioned history and their role in it, giving rise to a sort of liberal-republican millennialism. Wilson was no exception: Considering faith essential to authentic knowledge, he regarded history as a providential process, the United States as a divinely appointed redeemer nation, and himself as a Christian statesman performing God’s work in a fallen world. His foreign policy was fundamentally a religious mission to transform international relations according to the Bible, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of salvation. The dissertation demonstrates the eschatological foundations of his statecraft through specific examples and draws attention to their illiberal and totalizing implications. Final passages note the enduring relevance of Wilson’s principles and, based on their reinterpretation in this work, reflect critically on their suitability as a guide for future American foreign policy.
Supervisor: Welsh, Jennifer Sponsor: Dulverton Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of North America ; Intellectual History ; Modern Western philosophy ; Biblical studies ; Church history ; Christianity and Christian spirituality ; Science and religion ; American politics ; International studies ; Political ideologies ; War (politics) ; secularization ; religion ; liberalism ; ideology ; utopia ; Wilson