For the Anglo-American world, Edmund Burke is the touchstone of counter-revolutionary thought, but in this volume, Christopher Olaf Blum shows that in attempting to vindicate the principles that had, at its best, animated the Old Regime, and in critiquing the institutions and beliefs associated with the New Regime, the French counter-revolutionary tradition is unparalleled. To understand adequately what Georges Bernanos called the "spiritual drama of Europe," it is a tradition that must be grappled with.
Critics of the Enlightenment makes available new translations of representative selections from some of the leading French conservative thinkers of the nineteenth century: François de Chateaubriand, Louis de Bonald, Joseph de Maistre, Fredéric Le Play, Émile Keller, and René de La Tour du Pin. The selections span much of the nineteenth century, from Chateaubriand's 1814 pamphlet against Bonaparte to La Tour du Pin's 1883 essay on the theory of the corporate state. The volume, therefore, not only includes responses of the French conservatives to the French Revolutions of 1789 through 1815, but also testifies to the continuing elaboration of this critique against the background of the troubled nineteenth century. Blum's introduction sets these selections within the contexts of the events giving rise to them and the lives of their authors. The French political philosopher Philippe Bénéton supplies the book's foreword.
Blum's elegant translations of texts heretofore difficult or impossible to find in English allow anglophone readers to profit from the counter-revolutionaries' insights about social and cultural matters of perennial importance, such as the necessary roles of religion, family, and local communities within any larger political societymatters of pressing concern to the counter-revolutionaries of our own time.
What They're Saying...
"Critics of the Enlightenment provides very readable translations of substantial selections from six important French Catholic conservative writers, who continued to challenge the inheritance of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution during the nineteenth century. Christopher Blum has chosen wisely with respect to both the authors and the excerpts selected for translation. In addition, he has provided a lucid and well-informed introduction that places his authors and their writings in the context of their time. Blum offers a very helpful assessment of the historical significance of this current of thought and some provocative suggestions about its continuing relevance for our own time."
— Richard Lebrun, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Manitoba, and author of Joseph de Maistre: An Intellectual Militant
"Both ISI and Christopher Olaf Blum, who edited this anthology, deserve our thanks for making available in English the six 19th-century French conservative thinkers whose writings are herein presented."
"Christopher Blum illuminates a neglected tradition important to anyone interested in the battle over the nature and the future of the West."
— Rich Lowry, editor-in-chief, National Review
"Christopher Blum is to be commended for bringing together such a wealth of wisdom on the subject of the French Revolution and its devastating impact. In the presence of such counter-revolutionary wisdom one can discern the folly of the superciliously self-named 'Enlightenment' and its philosophically fallacious foundations. Beyond the shadows of the 'endarkenment' we see the true light of the counter-revolutionary tradition."
— Joseph Pearce, author, Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile
"Critics of the Enlightenment is a valuable sourcebook for the thought of an often-neglected strand of conservatism."
— National Review
"The book includes a foreward by French political scientist Philippe Bénéton, which judiciously balances what he believes are the writers' insights with the insights of the Enlightenment . . ."
"The books provides powerful evidence of the vitality of Christian thought in the nineteenth century, as exemplified by the publication of Chateaubriand's The Genius of Christianity in 1802 in Frnace, where praising Europe's Christian past had been unthinkable just a few years earlier."
"[T]here is no doubt in my mind that the young scholar from Christendom College will take his place with this work in the respected company of serious English and American students of the French opposition, in the ranks of Beik, Elbow, McClelland, and others of the same caliber. The book is well translated, has a decent index, few typos. Above these things it deserves our praise for bringing into circulation names and text that are usually kept hidden. Whatever one’s opinions about the authors included, simply bringing them into the open expands our space of knowledge and thus of freedom in our minds.”
— Virgil Nemoianu, The American Spectator
"Critics of the Enlightenment is a welcome selection of works by nineteenth century French-language writers who were critical of the ideas of the Enlightenment and of the principles of what had become, by then, the revolutionary 'establishment.' …I am deeply impressed with the substantial work that Christopher Blum has done in translating and editing these writers, properly reintroducing them into the field of Catholic political and social thought. This book thus serves as a very useful introduction to the work of some important, traditionalist, Catholic writers largely unknown to the English-speaking world."
— Faith & Reason