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Mihail Neamțu (Romanian pronunciation: [mihaˈil ˈne̯amtsu]) is a Romanian conservative politician. Born in Făgăraș, Neamțu received a PhD in theology from King's College London and has written several books on politics, religion, and culture.
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Political views
- 3 Political activity
- 4 Books
- 5 Bibliography (selective)
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Life and career
Family and Political Awakenings
Born in 1978 at the bottom of the Carpathian Mountains, Mihail Neamțu had a first-hand experience of communism, an ideology which he often described in harsh pejorative terms. His mother, Emilia, was a school teacher and his father, Gheorghe, was a computer engineer. Neamțu has a brother, who is a painter. Early on, his paternal grandfather introduced him into the elaborate rituals of Orthodox Christianity, which included a powerful morning Easter service, as well as an exposition of the biblical teachings about life and death.
On December 21, 1989, on the western frontier of Romania with Hungary, Mihail’s father directly faced the lethal threats of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s army (made of gunmen, soldiers, tanks, and military trucks). This left a lasting impression on Mihail’s political imagination. Ever since that moment, he saw liberty ‘as the most important gift in life’.
Education and Academic Career
In 1996, at the age of 17, he won the First Prize in the National Contest for Philosophy. In his undergraduate studies, Neamțu acquired an elementary knowledge of Greek and Latin, while being drawn to German hermeneutics and French phenomenology.
After having completed his B.A degree at the “Babeș-Bolyai” University of Cluj, Mihail Neamțu went off to study theology at the “Ludwig Maximilians” University of Munich (Germany). There, he developed a keen interest in the patristic era by looking at the development of Christian doctrine between 325 and 381 A.D.
His extensive readings included the works of Greek and Latin Church Fathers, such as Ireneus of Lyon, Athanasius the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine of Hippo, as well as Evagrius of Pontus, John Damascene and Gregory Palamas. In parallel, the social conditions of former Soviet countries, as well as the vivid memories of his own life under dictatorship, moved Neamțu’s intellectual focused in the area of Western political philosophy. Thus, he became acquainted with the great classical tradition, from Plato and Aristotle to Baruch Spinoza, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx and Dostoevksy.
He gradually developed a critical view of radical modernity, because the latter divorces reason from faith, personal virtue and public legality, economic flourishing and civic duty, sex from love, the visible from the invisible.
In 2002, Neamțu completed his Master of Arts research at Durham University (Dissertation title: ‘Theology and Language in St Gregory of Nyssa’) under the supervision of Professor Andrew Louth. The same year, he embarked on a doctoral research at King’s College London, where he worked with the late Collin Gunton and Professor Oliver Davies.
In 2008, Neamțu defended his doctoral dissertation at King’s College London. His unpublished thesis looks at various points of theological convergence between the supporters of the Nicene Creed and the leaders of the Christian monastic movement in fourth-century Egypt. Neamțu claimed that the Church bishops gathered at Nicene offered a paradoxical understanding of the consubstantial relationship between the Father and the Son, which subverted the Master and Slave dialectics so rampant in the pagan world (as it is described by Hegel in the Phenomenology of Spirit). The Nicene Creed gives meaning to the monastic appropriation of Christian discipleship.
The Nicene understanding of divine incarnation leads to the unfolding of ‘desert eschatology’ in terms of a liturgical suspension of secular history. Finally, Neamțu highlights the desert fathers’ implicit critique of the imperial cult, against the background of an Arian political theology. The marriage between the Nicene doctrine of God and the desert fathers’ practice of virtue is seen as the matrix of emergence for a new Christian understanding of ethics, time, liturgy, and sociality (i.e., politeia).
A Conservative Libertarian?
Upon his arrival back to Romania, Dr Neamțu became a diligent student of liberty. While living in Bucharest, he started to attend private seminars and public workshops focused on the works of Alexis de Tocqueville, Lord Acton, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley Jr.
Mihai Neamțu travelled extensively to many destinations in four regions of the globe (i.e., North-America, Asia, Europe including Euroasia, Gondwana, and the Middle East). As an affiliate researcher of various conservative NGOs and libertarian think-tanks, he put together different projects, conferences, and workshops, dedicated to the question of individual liberty and the impact of the governmental action upon the free market and the civil society.
For nearly two decades, already, Neamțu wrote various essays and columns on a variety of topics, such as entrepreneurship, rule of law, education, home-schooling, terrorism, Marxist ideology, and political corruption.
As a public speaker, Dr Neamțu addressed small and large crowds. He also interacted with thinkers, church leaders, and CEOs across various geographic and cultural lines. He has appeared on Skynews, Euronews, as well as on other various news stations and the national television.
The New Republic
On September 17, 2011, Neamțu published a political manifesto calling for the establishment of ‘a New Republic’. In his foundational document, the author said that the citizens of the free world should enter an age of personal responsibility, while politicians should fully grasp, in quasi-Burkean fashion, the meaning of a ‘trans-generational accountability’. The New Republic Party also called for the spiritual renewal of the Western civilization by restoring the moral dignity of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The movement reached its peak when thousands of individuals registered as members in forty national constituencies.
Work with the President of Romania
The European Conservatives
In 2013, the New Republic Party became member of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. As president of the New Republic Party, Neamțu worked with various members of the European Parliament, such as the British MEP Daniel Hannan and former prosecutor Monica Macovei.
As an academic, Mihai Neamțu has authored over a hundred critical essays, articles and book review on politics, philosophy, theology, and culture. Most of his books defend the cultural contributions of Christianity and the political values of classical liberalism. Some of his more scholarly essays have been published by Oxford University Press, Ashgate, and Brepols.
The Trump Arena (2017)
Philosopher and theologian, familiar with the history of Late Antiquity, Mihai Neamtu describes the clash between the Trump movement and the corrupt establishment of Washington D.C. in terms similar to the martial games held in the Roman Colosseum. The sword of the combatant was his Twitter account. His enemies were a legion of politicians, highbrow academics, journalists, and sold-out experts. Why did the American people cast their vote in favor of an underdog? What was the crowd’s reaction to Barack Obama’s arrogance? How was it possible for Donald Trump to defeat the Hollywood consensus and mainstream media bias against him? Why did the Christian communities grant their support to a folksy, foul-mouthed, and highly unconventional character? The book attempts to provide answers from a decidedly Eastern European perspective.
The Ages of Love (2016)
This best-seller tells three stories of love. At the International Gaudeamus Book Fest held in Bucharest (18-20 Nov. 2016), a plethora of writers, journalists, diplomats or theologians hailed this essay. Dr Adrian Papahagi praised the author for being 'capable to decipher the sacred halo of agape within the filigree of the profane love. The fiction of the archetypal child, Mowgli, mesmerised by Shanti, is combined with the story between the teenagers, Mihnea and Dora. Both stories lead to the climactic end exposed in the letter of two Eastern European intellectuals (Dinu and Nelli Pillat). A book of admirable encounters that can easily make you fall in love with them.'
In Zeitgeist, Neamțu offers an assessment of the moral, social, and economic legacy of Communism in Eastern Europe. He discusses everyday life, the question of political violence and institutional corruption, arts and material culture, as well as the Romanian history of dissidence and collaboration under dictatorship. Neamțu has quite systematically denounced the ‘negative influence of Soviet-style propaganda’, which attempts to weaken the notion of property, liberty, and the rule of law in all of Russia’s neighboring countries.
The Burden of Freedom (2009)
This book (prefaced by Professor Vladimir Tismaneanu) is one of the most scholarly in style, as it pertains to the Western history of political ideas. Neamțu attempts to critically assess the two extremes of radical modernity. First, the author discusses Spinoza’s biblical exegesis and the birth of secular liberal democracy; then, he looks at Carl Schmitt’s attack on the rationalism of the Enlightenment. As a result, Neamțu searches for a third-way, as it is revealed by the American exceptionalism (illustrated by the works of Jaroslav Pelikan and William F. Buckley Jr). As a champion of economic freedom, Neamțu also defended the intrinsic virtues of entrepreneurship, claiming that those who create wealth and abundance in a world of scarcity echo the divine transformation of a formless reality (the biblical tohu-bohu) into a living garden.
The Grammar of Orthodoxy (2007)
This book looks at the dialogue between faith and reason, between Orthodox theology and secular philosophy. It looks at the works of Michael Polanyi, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Paul Ricœur; it critically examines the ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ movement and the socialist doctrine of John Milbank; it critiques the objectifying of the human body with the help of Michel Henry’s phenomenology.
The Owl among the Ruins (2005)
Mihai Neamțu’s first popular book (published in 2005 under the title The Owl Among the Ruins and nominated for a national debut award) looks at the ambivalent relationship between the Church and the State before and after the collapse of Communism. The author outlines the moral differences between the Polish Catholic Church under Wojciech Jaruzelski and the Romanian Orthodox Church under the political regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu. Mihai Neamțu was also among the first Christian writers to tackle the question of collaboration between the Secret Police (Securitatea) and the clergy. The book also looks at the spiritual needs of the youth (including the representatives of the Roma community) in the age of consumerism.
Faith and Reason. Conversations, Contradictions, Mediation, 2013.
Zeitgeist. Cultural Patterns and Ideological Conflicts, 2010.
The Verb as Photography. Cultural dissidents and political commentaries, 2009.
The Conservative elegies. East-European Reflections on Religion and Society, 2009.
Memory, Humanism and Meaning. Essays in honor of Andrei Pleșu’s sixtieth anniversary, offered by NEC alumni & friends, Bucharest: Zeta Books, 2009, edited together with Bogdan Tătaru-Cazaban.
A Philosophy of Distance. In Honorem Andrei Pleșu, Bucharest, Humanitas Publishing house, 2009, coordinated together with Bogdan Tătaru-Cazaban.
‘The Theologico-Political Constitution of Monastic Liturgy,’ in Adrian Pabst and Christoph Schneider (ed.), Encounter between Eastern Orthodoxy and Radical Orthodoxy. Transfiguring the World through the Word (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 249-270.
‘Liturgical Orality or Textualist Oblivion? A Case-Study: Printing the Scriptures into Romanian (16th-18th century), St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, vol. 52 (2008) 3-4: 367-88.
‘Between the Gospel and the Nation: Dumitru Stăniloae’s Ethno-Theology,’ Archæus. Studies in the History of Religions, vol. 10 (2006) 3: 9-46.
‘Protology of Language in St Gregory of Nyssa,’ Khora. Revue d’études patristiques et médiévales, vol. 1 (2003) 1: 51-78.
‘Revisiting Orthodoxy and Nationalism,’ Pro Ecclesia, vol. 15 (2006) 2: 153-160.
Andrew Louth, Discerning the Mystery. Essay on the nature of theology, 1999. Jean-Luc Marion, The Cross of the Visible, 2000. John Behr, The Way to Niceea, 2004. Hugo Tristram Engelhardt Jr., The Foundations of Christian Bioethics, 2005.
- Neamțu, Mihail (2008). Bufnița din dărâmături. Insomnii teologice în România postcomunistă. Jassy: Polirom. ISBN 973-46-0959-8.CS1 maint: ignored ISBN errors (link)
- Mihai Neamțu, Zeitgeist (Bucharest: Curtea Veche Publishers, 2010), passim.
- Neamtu, Mihail George (2007). The Nicene Christ and desert eschatology (PhD). London, UK: King's College London. OCLC 681156315.
- Pabst, Adrian (2009). Encounter between eastern orthodoxy and radical orthodoxy: Transfiguring the world through the Word. Farnham, UK: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-6091-0. OCLC 326712764.
- Louth, Andrew (2011). Meditations of the heart: The Psalms in early Christian thought and practice : essays in honour of Andrew Louth. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols. ISBN 978-2-503-53433-6. OCLC 719415553.