Rowman and Littlefield International

Destroy and Liberate

Political Action in the Eighteenth Century

By Oliver Feltham

Publication Date: Dec 2018

Pages 304

Hardback 9781783481606
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In David Hume’s science of human nature every self is located by passions that bind it to groups, repel it from other groups, and rank it on a hierarchy: we call this discovery a ‘topology of the passions’. These bound and ranked selves and groups form the matter of what he called ‘government’, a supposedly neutral model of political action designed to avoid the malady of faction and catapult Scotland out of feudalism into a glorious future as a commercial society, assisted by the application of the new discipline of political economy, a discipline blind beyond its functional measures of privileged variables – the growth of trade, interest rates, wage levels – measures that justify the destruction of all obstacles to the wholesale liberation of the commercial passions. To govern – a new kind of action for a new epoch – is to destroy and liberate. But ever since Hume, government has fallen apart because it fails to take into account the complexity of society as a topology of the passions. It is in Hume’s History of Britain that we find the germs of another destiny for modernity in his ambivalent account of the revolutionary impact and danger of another model of political action – democratic enthusiasm – wherein to act is to incarnate an idea of commonality.

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).

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