The three books presented in this volume, Integral Humanism, Freedom in the Modern World, and A Letter on Independence, were all written in the early 1930s, a time of dire trouble for France. France was then surrounded by enemies preparing for war and was itself so violently split between parties of Left and Right that it seemed on the verge of Civil War. In this collection, Jacques Maritain accepts the responsibility of a Christian philosopher to actively address the agonizing practical problems of the time.
Maritain discusses major political issues such as the relation of freedom and religion, the opposition of democracy to any form of totalitarianism, the relation of the spiritual and the temporal, the need for an integral and Christian humanism, and the prospects for a new Christian civilization, all in opposition to the materialism of both communism and capitalism.
Against the fierce antagonism of the parties of the political Left and Right, Maritain declares a plague on both their houses and strongly affirms the need for independence from both of them. He does so by distinguishing between two senses of the terms Left and Right, one denoting a temperamental or physiological disposition, the other a definite political position. In the latter sense, Maritain asserts that he is an independent, while acknowledging that he is, by temperament, a man of the Left.