Rousseau, a philosopher of history? The suggestion may startle those who know him as an enemy of history, the founder of Counter-Enlightenment who rejected his century’s hope in progress and conjured quasi-utopias devoid of time. Alone, the political texts seem to justify this interpretation. Side by side with the Emile and Julie sagas, however, they disclose a new Rousseau, the weaver of a master plot that governs private and public history. This essay describes Jean-Jacques’ overarching narrative and the two main subnarratives that compose it by juxtaposing his political and fictional works. In doing so, it contests current conventions about his ideas on women, challenges assumptions about his educational ideals, retrieves new aspects of his debt to Fénelon, and foregrounds the pivotal role that the idea of ‘true love’ plays in his philosophy as the foundation of political community.
Few authors of scholarly classics shy away from being acknowledged, but such is the case of the author of Mœurs et coutumes des Indiens (Mores and customs of the Indians) (1777)—the first treatise of Indology and a classic of early anthropology—whose real, Jesuit identity remained obscured for over two centuries. The author’s concealment did not, however, prevent his work’s regular re-editing, or its conveyance of an original methodology that helped found ethnography as a discipline and harmonized with enlightened conservatism. To date, this methodology has been read simply as a direct reply to enlightened authors, especially Voltaire, but this essay demonstrates that it derived also from the immersion of eighteenth-century Jesuits in Indian culture, and above all from the vast Indianist tradition that members of the Society of Jesus developed over two centuries of missionary work. Indeed, the story of Mœurs et coutumes discloses that, far from being limited to Europe, enlightened conservatism was a global discourse; and that beyond being invented by Europe’s armchair philosophers, anthropology was a science born outside Europe from the pens of missionaries.
Following the publication of Isaiah Berlin's essay on Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), the Savoyard philosopher has been known primarily in the English-speaking world as a precursor of fascism. The essays in this volume challenge this view. Disclosing the inaccuracies and limitations of Berlin's account, they illustrate Maistre's colossally diverse European posterity. Far from an inflexible ideologist, Maistre was a versatile and deeply modern thinker who attracted interpreters across the political spectrum.
Through the centuries, Maistre's passionate Europeanism has contributed to his popularity from Madrid to Moscow. And in our times, when religion is re-asserting itself as a source of public reason, his theorization of the encounter between tradition and modernity is lending his work ever more urgent relevance.