For Manent, who is among one of the most endangered of species, a French Catholic intellectual, the modern nation, at its best, is based on the realistic observations that each of us is a citizen, but more than a citizen. The city of God and the city of man are both places in which we can feel at home, if not quite fully at home.
So Manent doesn’t see the fundamental tension of the West as between city and man, meaning either between citizen and philosopher or citizen and Christian. That Socratic or Platonic tension is alleviated at least by the observation that each of us is more than both citizen and philosopher, but none of us is exempted either from being a citizen or from living well in light or what we really know.
The deeper tension Manent sees is between magnanimity (or proud claims of self-sufficiency, a greatness that deserves the highest recognition from others) and humility (our anxious awareness of our flaws, debts, and limitations, which we couldn’t possibly overcome by our own efforts). The magnanimous man overrates his personal significance, of course, just as the humble man underrates his.
If this brief column leaves you wanting more, there’s always this article published in a distinguished journal of religion and public life.