The impossibility of reason

This book presents an overview of Jean–Jacques Rousseau's work from a political science perspective. Was Rousseau — the great theorist of the French Revolution—really a conservative? The text argues that the author of ‘The Social Contract’ was a constitutionalist much closer to Madison, Montesquieu, and Locke than to revolutionaries. Outlining his profound opposition to Godless materialism and revolutionary change, this book finds parallels between Rousseau and Burke, as well as showing that Rousseau developed the first modern theory of nationalism. It presents an integrated political analysis of Rousseau's educational, ethical, religious and political writings.

Thomas Docherty

Benjamin, there is another available instructive originary moment for this examination of our question. When he died on 10 February 1755, Montesquieu was blind, and had indeed suffered from near-total blindness during the last years of his life. Shortly after his death, when his fragmentary and still incomplete Essay on Taste was published, it became immediately apparent what such an affliction might have meant to him. In that essay (probably begun around 1726, and so contemporaneous with the ‘birth’ of aesthetics in the texts of Hutcheson11), Montesquieu had highlighted

in The new aestheticism
Rousseau as a constitutionalist
Mads Qvortrup

. Among the latter we may cite Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Montesquieu, Madison, Hayek and possibly even Machiavelli (McCormick 2001: 297). Like all dichotomies this one stretches reality, and may become inaccurate and even absurd when applied too rigorously. However, as a heuristic device it may serve a purpose, namely by identifying the common denominators which we might otherwise overlook. Moreover, this distinction can even be found in the empirical literature (Ertmann 1997), as well as theorists have used the distinction for hundreds of years. Thus in 1476 the

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jewish emancipation and the Jewish question
Robert Fine
Philip Spencer

religion. 15 Like a ventriloquist who puts his better self into the voice of his dummy, Voltaire intoned, through his Rabbi, a powerful protest against the double standards of the Christian Church and its projection onto Jews of the cruelty that it itself demonstrated. We find similar ambivalences in Montesquieu. He is quoted by historians of antisemitism for a comment in Persian Letters that ‘You can be sure

in Antisemitism and the left
Mads Qvortrup

like John F. Kennedy – understood that sacrifice is a necessary part of a working polity. He was never an institutionalist (like Madison or Mill), though he greatly admired Montesquieu. He approvingly cited the latter’s observation – from Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et leur décadance – that ‘at the birth of societies it is the legislators who shape the institutions, after that it is the institutions who shape the legislators’ (III: 381). (Although he also stressed that institutions were not the only factors to shape the law

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Open Access (free)
Christoph Menke in dialogue
Series: Critical Powers

This book focuses on the paradoxical character of law and specifically concerns the structural violence of law as the political imposition of normative order onto a "lawless" condition. The paradox of law which grounds and motivates Christoph Menke's intervention is that law is both the opposite of violence and, at the same time, a form of violence. The book develops its engagement with the paradox of law in two stages. The first shows why, and in what precise sense, the law is irreducibly characterized by structural violence. The second explores the possibility of law becoming self-reflectively aware of its own violence and, hence, of the form of a self-critique of law in view of its own violence. The Book's philosophical claims are developed through analyses of works of drama: two classical tragedies in the first part and two modern dramas in the second part. It attempts to illuminate the paradoxical nature of law by way of a philosophical interpretation of literature. There are at least two normative orders within the European ethical horizon that should be called "legal orders" even though they forego the use of coercion and are thus potentially nonviolent. These are international law and Jewish law. Understanding the relationship between law and violence is one of the most urgent challenges a postmodern critical legal theory faces today. Self-reflection, the philosophical concept that plays a key role in the essay, stands opposed to all forms of spontaneity.

By expanding the geographical scope of the history of violence and war, this volume challenges both Western and state-centric narratives of the decline of violence and its relationship to modernity. It highlights instead similarities across early modernity in terms of representations, legitimations, applications of, and motivations for violence. It seeks to integrate methodologies of the study of violence into the history of war, thereby extending the historical significance of both fields of research. Thirteen case studies outline the myriad ways in which large-scale violence was understood and used by states and non-state actors throughout the early modern period across Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Atlantic, and Europe, demonstrating that it was far more complex than would be suggested by simple narratives of conquest and resistance. Moreover, key features of imperial violence apply equally to large-scale violence within societies. As the authors argue, violence was a continuum, ranging from small-scale, local actions to full-blown war. The latter was privileged legally and increasingly associated with states during early modernity, but its legitimacy was frequently contested and many of its violent forms, such as raiding and destruction of buildings and crops, could be found in activities not officially classed as war.

Open Access (free)
Cameron Ross

. For Montesquieu, large states must choose between tyranny and federalism. But as Petrov stresses, ‘True to its habit of choosing both evils, Russia has taken the path of building a “federation of tyrannies” ’.8 In a vicious circle, authoritarianism at the centre has been nourished by authoritarianism in the regions and vice versa. To conclude, Yeltsin and Putin, unlike Gorbachev, may have succeeded in maintaining the unity of the state, but only by sacrificing Russia’s democratic transition. Notes 1 D. Kempton, ‘Russian federalism: continuing myth or political

in Federalism and democratisation in Russia
Open Access (free)
The revolt of democratic Christianity and the rise of public opinion
S.J. Barnett

billet de confession’.47 In November 1748 Montesquieu’s Esprit des lois appeared and Jansenists and the Nouvelles ecclésiastiques were hostile to much of it, so much so that Montesquieu felt forced to defend himself publicly. The editor of the Nouvelles ecclésiastiques (at that time, Fontaine de la Roche) and most other Jansenists considered the Esprit des lois a thinly disguised antichristian writing in support of natural religion. We know, however, that Jansenist thought on toleration was by this time well developed, for the Nouvelles ecclésiastiques quoted

in The Enlightenment and religion
Rousseau’s and nationalism
Mads Qvortrup

la Corse. However, these efforts at creating ‘cultural homogeneity’ do not make him a nationalist in the strict sense, i.e. as defined by Gellner. Rousseau’s considerations in the 1750s were – or, so it might be argued – mostly (un)original elaborations of the doctrine of civic virtue and patriotism developed by Nicolo Machiavelli, in Discoursi,10 and more recently by Pufendorf and Montesquieu. Pufendorf had argued that ‘without religion no society can be maintained’ (Hendel 1934: 221), a view, which Montesquieu had supported in L’esprit des Lois (Book 25, ch. 9

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau