Enemies of the Enlightenment

Enemies of the Enlightenment : The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity

3.87 (39 ratings by Goodreads)
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Critics have long treated the most important intellectual movement of modern hstory - the Enlightenment - as if it took shape in the absence of opposition. In this ground-breaking new study, Darrin McMahon demonstrates that, on the contrary, contemporary resistance to the Enlightenment was a major cultural force, shaping and defining the Enlightenment from the moment of its inception, while giving rise to an entirely new ideological phenomenon - what we have come to think of as the "Right". Born in France, but spread throughout Europe and the New World in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Counter-Enlightenment was neither a rarified current in the history of ideas nor an atavistic relic of the past, but an extensive, international, and thoroughly modern affair.
Drawing on a range od primary sources, McMahon shows that well before the French Revolution, enemies of the Enlightenment were warning that the secular thrust of modern philosophy would give way to horrors of an unprecedented kind, Greeting 1789, in turn, as the realization of their worst fears, they fought the Revolution from its onset, profoundly affecting its subsequent course, The radicalization - and violence - of the Revolution was as much the product of militant resistance as any inherent logic. In the wake of Revolutionary upheaval, enemies of the Enligtenment assumed positions of immense cultural authority, consolidating their political vision of the Right in the first third of the nineteenth century, and spreading their construction of the Enlightenment throughout the world. In doing so they developed a critique of modernity that remains with us to the present day.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 276 pages
  • 164.1 x 241.6 x 21.8mm | 535.25g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous halftones
  • 0195136853
  • 9780195136852

Review quote

McMahon is to be commended both for drawing his readers' attention to a neglected political movement and discourse and for offering a provocative reading of the period that should elicit much response. This book will undoubtedly permanently affect the way we think about and teach the era of the French Revolution and its aftermath. Journal of Modern History In a consistently even-handed and lucid manner, McMahon details the evolution of a vital strain of modern thought with roots in the age of Enlightenment, one that Keith Baker and other historians of political discourse have largely ignored. Journal of Modern History ... sophisticated and vividly written. Journal of Modern History His [McMahon's] book is well grounded on solid research in French archives, and it is remarkably well written. It takes the Enlightenment out of the salons. Cecilia Miller, Times Literary Supplement Thoughtful and well-written. History Enemies of the Enlightenment presents a useful genealogy of a brand of conservatism that remained influential through the mid-20th century, and, more pressingly, a rough template for a host of counter-Enlightenment ideas that are with us still today, from Cambridge to Kabul. Jerry Z. Muller, The Wall Street Journal McMahon's argument is deeply versed in recent scholarship; his prose is polished, and the book is illustrated with compelling examples of visual propaganda. Publishers Weekly
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Rating details

39 ratings
3.87 out of 5 stars
5 23% (9)
4 49% (19)
3 21% (8)
2 8% (3)
1 0% (0)
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