Catalogue


Benjamin Constant and the birth of French liberalism /
K. Steven Vincent.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
description
viii, 280 p.
ISBN
0230110096 (hbk. : alk. paper), 9780230110090 (hbk. : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
isbn
0230110096 (hbk. : alk. paper)
9780230110090 (hbk. : alk. paper)
contents note
Machine generated contents note: Benjamin Constant: the early years (1767-1795) -- The emergence of liberalism (1795-1797) -- Liberal dilemmas (1797-1802) -- Liberal culture: sensibilité and Sociability -- Liberal pluralism and the Napoleonic empire (1802-1815) -- "Une philosophie engagée".
abstract
"Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) has come to be recognized, not only as an important novelist, but also as a major theorist of early liberalism. This book provides a densely contextualized intellectual biography of Constant that imbeds his thought in French political developments during the revolutionary era. Vincent argues that Constant's distinctive liberal political stance emerged during the Directory and Consulate, earlier than other scholars have claimed. He also demonstrates that Constant's thought was deeply influenced by traditions of sensibility and pluralism. While political issues are privileged, the personal dimension of Constant's trajectory is not overlooked; indeed, the reader also learns much about Constant's tormented love life and in particular about his important and long relationship with Germaine de Staël"--
catalogue key
7399785
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
K. Steven Vincent is a Professor of History at North Carolina State University. His previous publications include Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism (1984) and Between Marxism and Anardism: Benoit Malon and French Reformist Socialism (1992).
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2011-10-01:
As a fierce advocate of decentralization, religious toleration, and the rule of law, Benjamin Constant's Talleyrand-like ability for political survival has led many scholars to label him a political opportunist. However, in this superb exploration of the provenance of French liberalism, Vincent (North Carolina State) restores the intellectual and physical companion of Germaine de Stael to renewed importance. Whether in his reactions to the Terror or Napoleonic despotism, Constant's political thought consistently centered around his core beliefs that any unified political sovereignty was dangerous and that the success of political institutions is reliant on the "character" of its citizens. Vincent argues that while Constant believed ultimate sovereign authority rested with the people, its "expression" had to be channeled through a pragmatic, constitutional framework of its representative institutions. In institutionalizing the protection of rights and separation of powers, Constant maintained that it was essential to recognize the limits of political associations and provide space for negotiation and compromise. Interestingly, Vincent credits Constant's interest in anarchist theoretician William Godwin with enabling him to mark out the divide between anarchism and liberalism. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. B. C. Odom Jefferson State Community College
Reviews
Review Quotes
" Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism is lucid, elegantly written, and useful, summing up the major elements of political history in this period with accuracy and incisiveness. Vincent brings together the political, the socio-cultural, and the literary, using each to reflect on the other in provocative ways. His account allows readers to follow the intricate connections between the volatile ideological climate of the period from 1789 to 1815, the elite social world of the Old Regime and Revolution, and the literary discourse of sensibilite. This careful exposition allows Vincent to make subtle points with considerable acuity."John Warne Monroe, Associate Professor, Department of History, Iowa State University "This book is an original and well-researched piece of scholarship about a thinker of major importance and growing reputation. Vincent shows a flawless familiarity with Constant's own writings, the political and intellectual context in which they were set out, and the secondary literature relating to Constant himself and the period. Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism will make a contribution to Constant scholarship, to the study of French liberalism, and to the study of liberal thought." Jeremy Jennings, Professor of Political Theory, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London "This is an illuminating, thoughtfully conceived, and richly contextualized study of Benjamin Constant's development as a political thinker. Vincent provides a lucid and nuanced account of Constant's 'pluralistic liberalism' and argues persuasively that this important variety of French liberal political theory emerged in the aftermath of the Terror in the struggle to establish a stable political order that would not subvert the principles of the Revolution."Jonathan Beecher, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz
'As a fierce advocate of decentralization, religious toleration, and the rule of law, Benjamin Constant's Talleyrand-like ability for political survival has led many scholars to label him a political opportunist. However, in this superb exploration of the provenance of French liberalism, Vincent restores the intellectual and physical companion of Germaine de Staël to renewed importance. Highly recommended.''" CHOICE 'Vincent's new work, deftly drawing on a wide array of both primary and secondary works, is bound to become an indispensable instrument for any student of Benjamin Constant in the English-speaking world.''" History of European Ideas 'The book expertly narrates Constant's early years and development into a liberal political thinker and actor. It provides excellent descriptions of post-revolutionary France and the problems Constant confronted when he entered politics in the 1790s. Vincent convincingly argues that Constant's liberal political stance emerged quite early, namely during the Directory and Consulate, and that it was conceived expressly to deal with the issues of his time.''" H-France " Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism is lucid, elegantly written, and useful, summing up the major elements of political history in this period with accuracy and incisiveness. Vincent brings together the political, the socio-cultural, and the literary, using each to reflect on the other in provocative ways. His account allows readers to follow the intricate connections between the volatile ideological climate of the period from 1789 to 1815, the elite social world of the Old Regime and Revolution, and the literary discourse of sensibilité. This careful exposition allows Vincent to make subtle points with considerable acuity." - John Warne Monroe, Associate Professor, Department of History, Iowa State University "This book is an original and well-researched piece of scholarship about a thinker of major importance and growing reputation. Vincent shows a flawless familiarity with Constant's own writings, the political and intellectual context in which they were set out, and the secondary literature relating to Constant himself and the period. Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism will make a contribution to Constant scholarship, to the study of French liberalism, and to the study of liberal thought." - Jeremy Jennings, Professor of Political Theory, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London "This is an illuminating, thoughtfully conceived, and richly contextualized study of Benjamin Constant's development as a political thinker. Vincent provides a lucid and nuanced account of Constant's 'pluralistic liberalism' and argues persuasively that this important variety of French liberal political theory emerged in the aftermath of the Terror in the struggle to establish a stable political order that would not subvert the principles of the Revolution." - Jonathan Beecher, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz
'As a fierce advocate of decentralization, religious toleration, and the rule of law, Benjamin Constant's Talleyrand-like ability for political survival has led many scholars to label him a political opportunist. However, in this superb exploration of the provenance of French liberalism, Vincent restores the intellectual and physical companion of Germaine de Stael to renewed importance. Highly recommended.' CHOICE 'The book expertly narrates Constant's early years and development into a liberal political thinker and actor. It provides excellent descriptions of post-revolutionary France and the problems Constant confronted when he entered politics in the 1790s. Vincent convincingly argues that Constant's liberal political stance emerged quite early, namely during the Directory and Consulate, and that it was conceived expressly to deal with the issues of his time.' H-France " Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism is lucid, elegantly written, and useful, summing up the major elements of political history in this period with accuracy and incisiveness. Vincent brings together the political, the socio-cultural, and the literary, using each to reflect on the other in provocative ways. His account allows readers to follow the intricate connections between the volatile ideological climate of the period from 1789 to 1815, the elite social world of the Old Regime and Revolution, and the literary discourse of sensibilite. This careful exposition allows Vincent to make subtle points with considerable acuity." - John Warne Monroe, Associate Professor, Department of History, Iowa State University "This book is an original and well-researched piece of scholarship about a thinker of major importance and growing reputation. Vincent shows a flawless familiarity with Constant's own writings, the political and intellectual context in which they were set out, and the secondary literature relating to Constant himself and the period. Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism will make a contribution to Constant scholarship, to the study of French liberalism, and to the study of liberal thought." - Jeremy Jennings, Professor of Political Theory, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London "This is an illuminating, thoughtfully conceived, and richly contextualized study of Benjamin Constant's development as a political thinker. Vincent provides a lucid and nuanced account of Constant's 'pluralistic liberalism' and argues persuasively that this important variety of French liberal political theory emerged in the aftermath of the Terror in the struggle to establish a stable political order that would not subvert the principles of the Revolution." - Jonathan Beecher, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz
'As a fierce advocate of decentralization, religious toleration, and the rule of law, Benjamin Constant's Talleyrand-like ability for political survival has led many scholars to label him a political opportunist. However, in this superb exploration of the provenance of French liberalism, Vincent restores the intellectual and physical companion of Germaine de Stael to renewed importance. Highly recommended.' CHOICE " Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism is lucid, elegantly written, and useful, summing up the major elements of political history in this period with accuracy and incisiveness. Vincent brings together the political, the socio-cultural, and the literary, using each to reflect on the other in provocative ways. His account allows readers to follow the intricate connections between the volatile ideological climate of the period from 1789 to 1815, the elite social world of the Old Regime and Revolution, and the literary discourse of sensibilite. This careful exposition allows Vincent to make subtle points with considerable acuity." - John Warne Monroe, Associate Professor, Department of History, Iowa State University "This book is an original and well-researched piece of scholarship about a thinker of major importance and growing reputation. Vincent shows a flawless familiarity with Constant's own writings, the political and intellectual context in which they were set out, and the secondary literature relating to Constant himself and the period. Benjamin Constant and the Birth of French Liberalism will make a contribution to Constant scholarship, to the study of French liberalism, and to the study of liberal thought." - Jeremy Jennings, Professor of Political Theory, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London "This is an illuminating, thoughtfully conceived, and richly contextualized study of Benjamin Constant's development as a political thinker. Vincent provides a lucid and nuanced account of Constant's 'pluralistic liberalism' and argues persuasively that this important variety of French liberal political theory emerged in the aftermath of the Terror in the struggle to establish a stable political order that would not subvert the principles of the Revolution." - Jonathan Beecher, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Cruz
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 2011
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Summaries
Description for Bookstore
A new account of the emergence of liberalism in France which focuses on the the political thought of two main figures to advance a new interpretation of French liberal philosophy.
Description for Bookstore
A new account of the emergence of liberalism in France which focuses on the the political thought of two main figures to advance a new interpretation of French liberal philosophy.  
Long Description
Traditional scholarship on French liberalism has frequently proceeded by defining the core issues and telling a story of their emergence and development. This book takes a different approach: rather than beginning with an a priori definition of liberalism, it focuses on the political thought of Benjamin Constant and Germaine de Sta l, the first figures in France to call their thought 'liberal.' In so doing, it advances a new interpretation of the timing and character of French (and more broadly European) liberalism, and contributes to the ongoing debate concerning the place of morality, sociability, and conceptions of the 'self' in modern liberal thought.
Main Description
Traditional scholarship on French liberalism has frequently proceeded by defining the core issues and telling a story of their emergence and development. This book takes a different approach: rather than beginning with ana prioridefinition of liberalism, it focuses on the political thought of Benjamin Constant and Germaine de Sta l, the first figures in France to call their thought “liberal.” In so doing, it advances a new interpretation of the timing and character of French (and more broadly European) liberalism, and contributes to the ongoing debate concerning the place of morality, sociability, and conceptions of the “self” in modern liberal thought.
Long Description
Traditional scholarship on French liberalism has frequently proceeded by defining the core issues and telling a story of their emergence and development. This book takes a different approach: rather than beginning with an a priori definition of liberalism, it focuses on the political thought of Benjamin Constant and Germaine de Staël, the first figures in France to call their thought 'œliberal.' In so doing, it advances a new interpretation of the timing and character of French (and more broadly European) liberalism, and contributes to the ongoing debate concerning the place of morality, sociability, and conceptions of the 'œself' in modern liberal thought.
Library of Congress Summary
"Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) has come to be recognized, not only as an important novelist, but also as a major theorist of early liberalism. This book provides a densely contextualized intellectual biography of Constant that imbeds his thought in French political developments during the revolutionary era. Vincent argues that Constant's distinctive liberal political stance emerged during the Directory and Consulate, earlier than other scholars have claimed. He also demonstrates that Constant's thought was deeply influenced by traditions of sensibility and pluralism. While political issues are privileged, the personal dimension of Constant's trajectory is not overlooked; indeed, the reader also learns much about Constant's tormented love life and in particular about his important and long relationship with Germaine de Staël"--
Main Description
Traditional scholarship on French liberalism has frequently proceeded by defining the core issues and telling a story of their emergence and development. This book takes a different approach: rather than beginning with an a priori definition of liberalism, it focuses on the political thought of Benjamin Constant and Germaine de Stael, the first figures in France to call their thought "liberal." In so doing, it advances a new interpretation of the timing and character of French (and more broadly European) liberalism, and contributes to the ongoing debate concerning the place of morality, sociability, and conceptions of the "self" in modern liberal thought.
Main Description
Traditional scholarship on French liberalism has frequently proceeded by defining the core issues and telling a story of their emergence and development. This book takes a different approach: rather than beginning with ana prioridefinition of liberalism, it focuses on the political thought of Benjamin Constant and Germaine de Stael, the first figures in France to call their thought "liberal." In so doing, it advances a new interpretation of the timing and character of French (and more broadly European) liberalism, and contributes to the ongoing debate concerning the place of morality, sociability, and conceptions of the "self" in modern liberal thought.
Bowker Data Service Summary
This work focuses on the political thought of Benjamin Constant and Germaine De Staël, the first figures in France to call their thought 'liberal'. In doing so, it advances a new interpretation of the timing and character of French (and more broadly European) liberalism.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
Benjamin Constant and Germaine de Staëlp. 5
The Revolutionary Contextp. 6
Thermidor and the Directoryp. 10
Organization of the Bookp. 14
Benjamin Constant: The Early Years (1767-95)p. 17
Constant's Family and Education: The Making of a Cosmopolitanp. 18
Early Infatuations and the Issue of Constant's "Character"p. 20
Isabelle de Charrière, Minna von Cramm, and the Court of Brunswickp. 26
Early Political Ruminationsp. 30
Reactions to the French Revolutionp. 32
Germaine de Staëlp. 36
The Emergence of Liberalism (1795-97)p. 39
Constant and Staël in Parisp. 39
"Ending the Revolution" and the Constitution of 1795p. 45
Constant's Political Writings, 1796-97p. 52
Moeurs: Between Vengeance and Fatigue/Between Rebelliousness and Resignationp. 57
Liberal Opposition to Revenge and Exclusionp. 63
Germaine de Staël's Politicsp. 67
Salonsp. 71
Liberalismp. 76
Liberal Dilemmas (1797-1802)p. 81
The Coup of 18 Fructidor, an V (4 September 1797)p. 81
The Consequences of Counter-Revolutionp. 90
Liberalism Confronts Anarchism: William Godwinp. 95
The Possibility of a Republic in a Large Countryp. 105
Between Immanuel Kant and Edmund Burkep. 120
Constant in the Tribunatp. 124
Liberal Culture: Sensibilité and Sociabilityp. 129
Constant, Staël, and Charlotte von Hardenbergp. 129
Delphine, Corinne, and Adolphep. 131
Sensibilitép. 140
Religionp. 147
Sociabilityp. 155
Liberal Pluralism and the Napoleonic Empire (1802-15)p. 163
Pluralismp. 167
Political Sovereigntyp. 178
Religious Tolerationp. 190
The Danger of Fanaticismp. 192
Ancient versus Modern Libertyp. 194
Conclusion: Une Philosophie Engagéep. 197
Constant and the Liberal Oppositionp. 197
Commentaire sur l'ouvrage de Filangierip. 201
Liberal Pluralismp. 205
Notesp. 217
Indexp. 273
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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