Rowman and Littlefield International

Destroy and Liberate

Political Action in the Eighteenth Century

By Oliver Feltham

Publication Date: May 2018

Pages 304

Hardback 9781783481606
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The English and French revolutions generated a model of political action adequate to the fragile and tragic nature of politics. This model of action as alliance has since been marginalized by two over-rationalized and optimistic models: Adam Smith's conception of politics as destructive liberation and Jean-Jacques Rousseau's conception of republican participatory unification. These two models dominate contemporary political thinking, from left to right and back again, leading it into impasses and impotency. Here, Oliver Feltham argues that it is time to revive the forgotten model of joint-action, buried since its revolutionary heyday.

Feltham identifies rival models of political action in the works of key philosophers and episodes of political history, namely Smith, Hume, Rousseau, Burke and the French and American revolutions. He presents a theory of politics as an 'action-zone', and creates a vantage point from which one can translate critical theory's concerns with power and ideology into mainstream political philosophy's concerns with the theorization of justice and equality.
Introduction / Part I: The Politics of Destructive Liberation / 1. Constructing Commercial Society as a Scalar Theodicy / 2. Declaring Independence from Empire: The American Revolution / 3. Liberating Society's Automatisms: Politics as Productive Technique / Part II: The Politics of Participatory Unification / 4. Incarnating the People: Sovereignty and the General Will / 5. Voicing the People: The Jacobin porte-parole in the French Revolution / 6. Judging the People: Burke and Counter-Revolutionary Reaction / Part III: The Politics of Joint-Action / 7. Repeating History: Fortune and Factionalism in Athens, Rome, Florence and Paris / 8. Presenting Action: The Aesthesis of the Action-Zone in the French Revolution / 9. Building Alliances: Powers of Joint-Action in the Mouth of the Event / Bibliography / Index
Oliver Feltham is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the American University of Paris.. His publications include Anatomy of Failure (2013) and Alain Badiou: Live Theory (2008). He is the translator of Alain Badiou's Being and Event (2006) and co-translator (with Justin Clemens) of Infinite Thought (2003).