Joseph de Maistre and his European Readers

Receiving Early Conservatism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries


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.

Cover illustration by Matthieu Manche
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Biographical Note

Carolina Armenteros is a Rosalind Franklin Fellow at the University of Groningen and a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. She has published on Maistre in the Journal of the History of Ideas and History of Political Thought. With Richard Lebrun, she has co-edited The New enfant du siècle: Joseph de Maistre as a Writer (St Andrews, 2010) and Joseph de Maistre and the Legacy of Enlightenment (Oxford, 2011).

Richard Lebrun is Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of two monographs on Maistre, the translator and editor of two volumes of essays on Maistre, and of two other volumes of essays co-edited with Carolina Armenteros. He has published English translations of many of Maistre’s works.

Review Quotes

Whereas in the past Maistre’s legacy has often been monolithically reduced to how he was a forerunner to fascist theories or to what fascists read into his works, this book seeks to break ground for a more nuanced reception study that does justice to the many ways in which Maistre’s work has been read and interpreted. [...]
There were two underlying goals. First, to give an impression of the wide diversity of the uses that have been made of his work. Second, to suggest the reasons why it has been read continuously across the centuries. Both goals have been amply and successfully fulfilled, which makes this study exemplary and commendable in many senses. [...]
By taking the diverse readings of Maistre’s oeuvre seriously and doing justice to them in their own right, this volume has broken with this distorted legacy and paved the way for similar research that may add to the reception studies of Maistrian thinking which thus far have not been that well developed. [...]
Joseph de Maistre touched the minds of many intellectuals of different (political) views; and that is, at the least, what Joseph de Maistre and his European Readers has shown.
Erik De Bom, History of Political Thought, Vol. 35 (2013), No. 4, p. 745

[E]ine wichtige Bereicherung unseres Wissens über Wahrnehmung und Verarbeitung von de Maistres Gedankengut. [..] Die Beiträge stellen zusammen genommen ein überzeugendes Plädoyer dafür dar, die Rolle de Maistres in der Geschichte des europäischen politischen Denkens weitaus differenzierter zu betrachten. [...]
Das Anliegen, de Maistres Werk für neue Fragestellungen fruchtbar zu machen, ist sehr bedenkenswert. Der vorliegende Band bietet dazu viele Anregungen.
Günther Kronenbitter, Francia-Recensio, April 2012

[…] [T]he authors constitute an interdisciplinary group uniquely situated to offer a solid introduction to the nature and scope of recent Maistrian scholarship.
Steven Kale, H-France Reviews, Volume 12 (July 2012), No. 92, pp. 1-12
Since this review contained so many errors the editors and contributors of the book felt that a reply was necessary. Please read the reply here.

An interview with Carolina Armenteros and Richard Lebrun can be found here.

Table of contents


Introduction, Carolina Armenteros and Richard A. Lebrun
Memento, Jean-Louis Darcel

Part I: Maistre in the United Kingdom
Chapter 1, Berlin, Maistre, and Fascism, Cyprian Blamires

Part II: Maistre in Nineteenth-Century France
Chapter 2, Le mystique de la Tradition: Barbey Worships at the Altar of Joseph de Maistre, Kevin Erwin
Chapter 3, Auguste Comte’s Reading of Maistre’s Du pape: Two Theories of Spiritual Power, Tonatiuh Useche Sandoval

Part III: Maistre’s German Readers
Chapter 4, The Correspondence of Frederick von Gentz: The Reception of Du pape in the German-speaking World, Raphaël Cahen
Chapter 5, “All Evil is the Cancellation of Unity:” Joseph de Maistre and Late German Romanticism, Adrian Daub
Chapter 6, Maistrian Themes in Walter Benjamin’s Sociology, Ryohei Kageura
Chapter 7, A Dialectical Reading of Joseph de Maistre by Herbert Marcuse, Michael Kohlhauer

Part IV: Maistre’s Italian Posterity
Chapter 8, Joseph de Maistre and Italy, Marco Ravera

Part V: Maistre’s Russian Fate
Chapter 9, Preparing the Russian Revolution: Maistre and Uvarov on the History of Knowledge, Carolina Armenteros

Afterword: The Reception of Maistre’s Considérations sur la France, José Miguel Nanni Soares
Conclusion, Carolina Armenteros




All those interested in intellectual history, European history, the history of political thought, the history of conservatism, and the history of Europeanism, as well as theologians, students of religion and of Christianity.


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