For a Kinder, Gentler Society
A Passion for Democracy: Benjamin Constant
  • Tzvetan Todorov
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A Passion for Democracy: Benjamin Constant.
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Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), a brilliant and original philosopher and a political scientist, was overshadowed by Tocqueville despite his timeliness and relevance for today. A realistic free trade advocate and a committed conservative, although liberal and lyrical regarding affairs of the heart, Constant is the first serious analyst to consider the French Revolution without bias, concluding: “It is not so certain that we won out in this deal.”

About the Author

Tzvetan Todorov, an internationally influential literary and cultural theorist, has written more than 20 books. He is known for his studies of ethics and history; concerns regarding the definition of freedom and equality in different societies suffuse his writing. Many of his works focus on literature and society, including Fragile Happiness, An Essay on Rousseau (Hachette, 1985), We and the Others, a French reflection on human diversity (Seuil, 1989), Morals of History (Grasset, 1991) and Life Together (Grasset, 1995).

Born in Bulgaria, Todorov moved to France in 1963 to complete his graduate studies under Roland Barthes. He is a Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and has been a visiting professor at universities including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Paris with his wife Nancy Huston and their two children.

Todorov has been awarded the Bronze Medal of the CNRS, the Charles Lévêque Prize of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques and the first Maugean Prize of the Académie Française; he also is an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

About the Book
The French Revolution rang the death knell not only for a form of society, but also for a way of feeling and of living; and it is still not clear as yet what did we gain from the changes. Benjamin Constant was one of the first to draw up this dark...
The French Revolution rang the death knell not only for a form of society, but also for a way of feeling and of living; and it is still not clear as yet what did we gain from the changes. Benjamin Constant was one of the first to draw up this dark diagnosis. "We no longer know how to love, neither to believe, nor to want. As a result, Heaven no longer offers hope, the earth dignity, the heart refuge." But is it enough to deplore it? Constant does not think so, and having become the first French thinker of democracy, he undertakes to seek remedies to the problem: a political framework that guarantees the dignity of the individual without dissolving the social bond; a religion stripped of its oppressive forms; a love finding the place which is due to values, higher than "all the thrones of the earth."
Preface
Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), a brilliant and original philosopher and a political scientist, was overshadowed by Tocqueville despite his timeliness and relevance for today. A realistic free trade advocate and a committed conservative, although...
Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), a brilliant and original philosopher and a political scientist, was overshadowed by Tocqueville despite his timeliness and relevance for today. A realistic free trade advocate and a committed conservative, although liberal and lyrical regarding affairs of the heart, Constant is the first serious analyst to consider the French Revolution without bias, concluding: "It is not so certain that we won out in this deal."

In this clear and lively presentation, including a biographical overview, renowned critic and essayist Tzvetan Todorov shows Constant as the first French analyst of democracy in the broadest sense: a modest and unsystematic observer who tried to establish politics as the guarantee of individual dignity without dissolving social ties, religion as a free choice beyond oppression, and love as the highest of all feelings, higher than "all the thrones on Earth."

Reassessing the role of interest, treating ethics and compassion separately from religion, understanding the role of language and the need for fusion in love relationships and linking individual feelings to community issues, Constant brilliantly anticipated our most contemporary concerns.


Reviews
“A delightfully subtle and humane exploration of Constant the diarist, novelist, political theorist, and man.” | More »
Publishers Weekly | More »
Awarded the "PRIX VEILLON," 1998 (24th Prix européen de l'essai Charles Veillon) | More »
Categories

Pages 256
Year: 1999
LC Classification: JC229.C8T6313
Dewey code: 320.5’ 12’ 092—dc21
BISAC: PHI019000
BISAC: PHI009520
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-892941-01-5
Price: USD 18.95
Ebook
ISBN: 978-1-892941-13-8
Price: USD 1.00
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