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The Enlightenment that Failed By Jonathan I. Israel (Professor Emeritus, Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)


Radical and conservative Enlightenment ideologies began to break apart as the desire for a fair society clashed with questions of religion and secularization. The Enlightenment that Failed shows how ideas promoting the interest of society as a whole came to be almost defeated by ideas buttressing the interests of the privileged few.

The Enlightenment that Failed Summary

The Enlightenment that Failed: Ideas, Revolution, and Democratic Defeat, 1748-1830 by Jonathan I. Israel (Professor Emeritus, Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)

The Enlightenment that Failed explores the growing rift between those Enlightenment trends and initiatives that appealed exclusively to elites and those aspiring to enlighten all of society by raising mankind's awareness, freedoms, and educational level generally. Jonathan I. Israel explains why the democratic and radical secularizing tendency of the Western Enlightenment, after gaining some notable successes during the revolutionary era (1775-1820) in numerous countries, especially in Europe, North America, and Spanish America, ultimately failed. He argues that a populist, Robespierriste tendency, sharply at odds with democratic values and freedom of expression, gained an ideological advantage in France, and that the negative reaction this generally provoked caused a more general anti-Enlightenment reaction, a surging anti-intellectualism combined with forms of religious revival that largely undermined the longings of the deprived, underprivileged, and disadvantaged, and ended by helping, albeit often unwittingly, conservative anti-Enlightenment ideologies to dominate the scene. The Enlightenment that Failed relates both the American and the French revolutions to the Enlightenment in a markedly different fashion from how this is usually done, showing how both great revolutions were fundamentally split between bitterly opposed and utterly incompatible ideological tendencies. Radical Enlightenment, which had been an effective ideological challenge to the prevailing monarchical-aristocratic status quo, was weakened, then almost entirely derailed and displaced from the Western consciousness, in the 1830s and 1840s by the rise of Marxism and other forms of socialism.

The Enlightenment that Failed Reviews

It is a credit to Israel's scholarship that the book is far broader than polemics ... he prose is precise throughout, and Israel's commitment to intellectual history - his conviction that ideas are primary movers of history - is compelling * Luke Nicastro, The University Bookman *

About Jonathan I. Israel (Professor Emeritus, Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)

Jonathan Israel was born and educated in London, graduated at Cambridge, and gained his PhD at Oxford. He taught for thirty years in British universities (Newcastle, Hull, and University College London) before being appointed Professor of Modern History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He retired in 2016.

Table of Contents

1: Introduction: Radical Enlightenment and 'Modernity' Part I: The Origins of Democratic Modernity 2: The Rise of Democratic Republicanism 3: From Radical Renaissance to Radical Enlightenment 4: From Radical Reformation to the Cercle Spinoziste 5: English 'Deism' and its pre-1700 Roots 6: Great 'Moderates' and the Temptations of the Radical: Montesquieu and the Forbidden 7: D'Holbach against Voltaire and Rousseau: a triangular battle of Political Thought Systems 8: Revolution without Violence: The Nordic Model Part II: Human Rights and Revolution (1770-1830) 9: Parallel Revolutions: America and France (1774-1793) 10: General Will' and The Invention of Universal and Equal Human Rights (1750-1789) 11: Emancipating Women: Marriage, Equality, and Female Citizenship (1775-1815) 12: From Classical Economics to post-Classical redistributive Economics (1775-1820) 13: Reforming Europe's Law Codes 14: Unity of Humanity: Race Theory and the Equality of Peoples 15: Unity of Humanity: Property, Class, and the Emancipation of Man Part III: Revolution and Competing Revolutionary Ideologies (1789-1830) 16: Robespierre anti-philosophe, Or, the Battle of Ideologies during the French Revolution 17: The Swiss Revolution and the Hard Climb to Democratic Republicanism (1782-1848) 18: The Belgian Revolution (1787-1794) 19: Enlightening against Robespierre (and Napoleon): the Ecoles centrales (1792-1804) 20: Revolution and the Universities: Germany's 'Philosophy Wars' (1780-1820) 21: Radicalism and Repression in the Anglo-American World (1775-1815) 22: The American Connection 23: The Spanish Revolution (1808-1823) 24: Black Emancipation, Universal Emancipation and the Haitian Revolution (1775-1825) Part IV: The Enlightenment that Failed 25: Reaction and Radicalism: Germany and the Low Countries (1814-1830) 26: British Philosophical Radicalism (1814-1830) 27: Failed Restoration in France (1814-1830) 28: Bolivar and Spinoza 29: Karl Marx and the Left's Turn from Radical Enlightenment to Socialism (1838-1848) 30: Conclusion: The 'Radical Enlightenment Thesis' and Its Critics

Additional information

The Enlightenment that Failed: Ideas, Revolution, and Democratic Defeat, 1748-1830 by Jonathan I. Israel (Professor Emeritus, Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)
Oxford University Press
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