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The Virtues of Abandon: An Anti-Individualist History of the French Enlightenment

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The Virtues of Abandon: An Anti-Individualist History of the French Enlightenment Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

France in the eighteenth century glittered, but also seethed, with new goods and new ideas. In the halls of Versailles, the streets of Paris, and the soul of the Enlightenment itself, a vitriolic struggle was waged over the question of ownership—of property, position, even of personhood. Radical mystics, philosophical materialists, and revolutionaries unleashed successive assaults on the equation of "being" with having a "self." This book traces the far-flung sparks of anti-individualism that permeated theology, philosophy, and politics throughout the period. Fired by the notion that the self was a fiction, men and women joined illicit mystic cults that engaged in shocking rituals of physical mortification and sexual abandon, committed suicides out of materialist fatalism, sought to induce consciousness-altering dreams to satisfy their lusts for scientific and carnal knowledge, railed against the degrading effects of luxury consumption, and even renounced the feudal privileges that had for centuries defined their social existence. The explosive denouement was the French Revolution, during which God and king were toppled from their thrones.

We credit the French Enlightenment with the formal recognition of autonomous individualism, and the Revolution with inscribing the individual's rights into law. As The Virtues of Abandon demonstrates, however, these rights arose as much out of calls for violent self-sacrifice and self-immolation as they did for the individual pursuit of happiness. Another misconception is to think of the French Enlightenment as avowedly secular from the outset. Yet this book reveals that the Enlightenment has radical religious origins precisely where scholars are least likely to look for them: enfolded in its radical, materialist, atheistic wing. The occurrence of these paradoxical cultural schisms, little recognized until recently, necessitates a fundamental reassessment of the long eighteenth century.

Synopsis:

DRAFT (to be approved by sponsor):

Dispossessing the Self explores how eighteenth-century debates over the self's relationship to property gave rise to a previously unexamined anti-individualist tradition of thought and action that informed the work of mystics, materialists, and radical political thinkers during the French Enlightenment and the Revolution.

Synopsis:

France in the eighteenth century glittered, but also seethed, with new goods and new ideas. In the halls of Versailles, the streets of Paris, and the soul of the Enlightenment itself, a vitriolic struggle was being waged over the question of ownership—of property, of position, even of personhood. Those who championed man's possession of material, spiritual, and existential goods faced the successive assaults of radical Christian mystics, philosophical materialists, and political revolutionaries. This book traces the aims and activities of these three seemingly disparate groups, and the current of anti-individualism that permeated theology, philosophy, and politics throughout the period.

Fired by the desire to abandon the self, men and women sought new ways to relate to God, nature, and nation. They joined illicit mystic cults that engaged in rituals of physical mortification and sexual license, committed suicides in the throes of materialist fatalism, drank potions to induce consciousness-altering dreams, railed against the degrading effects of unfettered consumption, and ultimately renounced the feudal privileges that had for centuries defined their social existence. The explosive denouement was the French Revolution, during which God and king were toppled from their thrones.

We credit the French Enlightenment with the formal recognition of autonomous individualism, and the Revolution with inscribing the individual's rights into law. This book contends, however, that these rights arose as much out of calls for violent self-sacrifice as for the individual pursuit of happiness. Revealing the religious underpinnings of the Enlightenment even in its materialist, atheistic forms, The Virtues of Abandon offers an original, audacious history of eighteenth-century France.

About the Author

Charly Coleman is Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780804784436
Author:
Coleman, Charly
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
Subject:
France
Subject:
World History-France
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20140631
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » France » General

The Virtues of Abandon: An Anti-Individualist History of the French Enlightenment New Hardcover
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Product details 416 pages Stanford University Press - English 9780804784436 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
DRAFT (to be approved by sponsor):

Dispossessing the Self explores how eighteenth-century debates over the self's relationship to property gave rise to a previously unexamined anti-individualist tradition of thought and action that informed the work of mystics, materialists, and radical political thinkers during the French Enlightenment and the Revolution.

"Synopsis" by ,
France in the eighteenth century glittered, but also seethed, with new goods and new ideas. In the halls of Versailles, the streets of Paris, and the soul of the Enlightenment itself, a vitriolic struggle was being waged over the question of ownership—of property, of position, even of personhood. Those who championed man's possession of material, spiritual, and existential goods faced the successive assaults of radical Christian mystics, philosophical materialists, and political revolutionaries. This book traces the aims and activities of these three seemingly disparate groups, and the current of anti-individualism that permeated theology, philosophy, and politics throughout the period.

Fired by the desire to abandon the self, men and women sought new ways to relate to God, nature, and nation. They joined illicit mystic cults that engaged in rituals of physical mortification and sexual license, committed suicides in the throes of materialist fatalism, drank potions to induce consciousness-altering dreams, railed against the degrading effects of unfettered consumption, and ultimately renounced the feudal privileges that had for centuries defined their social existence. The explosive denouement was the French Revolution, during which God and king were toppled from their thrones.

We credit the French Enlightenment with the formal recognition of autonomous individualism, and the Revolution with inscribing the individual's rights into law. This book contends, however, that these rights arose as much out of calls for violent self-sacrifice as for the individual pursuit of happiness. Revealing the religious underpinnings of the Enlightenment even in its materialist, atheistic forms, The Virtues of Abandon offers an original, audacious history of eighteenth-century France.

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