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Publisher's Summary

The Enlightenment That Failed explores the growing rift between those Enlightenment trends and initiatives that appealed exclusively to elites and those aspiring to enlighten all of society by raising mankind's awareness, freedoms, and educational level generally. Jonathan I. Israel explains why the democratic and radical secularizing tendency of the Western Enlightenment, after gaining some notable successes during the revolutionary era (1775-1820) in numerous countries, especially in Europe, North America, and Spanish America, ultimately failed. He argues that a populist, Robespierriste tendency, sharply at odds with democratic values and freedom of expression, gained an ideological advantage in France, and that the negative reaction this generally provoked caused a more general anti-Enlightenment reaction, a surging anti-intellectualism combined with forms of religious revival that largely undermined the longings of the deprived, underprivileged, and disadvantaged, and ended by helping, albeit often unwittingly, conservative anti-Enlightenment ideologies to dominate the scene.

©2019 Jonathan I. Israel (P)2021 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Long but Good Tour

…. thru the enlightenment starting from Spinoza, lingering (of course) on the French Revolution, and getting to Marx. He has a thesis about the strands of the enlightenment that doesn’t get too much in the way of the broad and informative sweep of the history. The lesson for our times is that democracy has a tough competitor in autocratic populism.