Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Rousseau’s Terror

David Gilmour has a fine review of two books on the French Revolution, the Terror, and Maximilien Robespierre. The books are imperfect, but the review is not. Everything Gilmour says about the Revolution is true, albeit brief. The real motor of the revolution was violence, and if there was any "ideology" in it, it stemmed from Rousseau. His concluding lines: "In fact the Revolution was the fount and origin not of our world but of the totalitarian era, an inspiration to future dictators who could adopt Rousseau’s theory of the General Will as an excuse to avoid democracy and who could label their opponents counterrevolutionaries as an excuse to murder them without trial."

Discussions - 2 Comments

I’ve flipped through the book on the Terror at the local bookstore and passed. It trumpeted a "new view" of the Terror by equating it with modern religious fundamentalism and other such nonsense. Why waste time when you can read Simon Schama and Francois Furet, not to mention several other good historians, over and over again?

Tony: Exactly.

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