Catalogue


Common sense : a political history /
Sophia Rosenfeld.
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2011.
description
337 p., [14] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0674057813 (hbk. : alk. paper), 9780674057814 (hbk. : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2011.
isbn
0674057813 (hbk. : alk. paper)
9780674057814 (hbk. : alk. paper)
catalogue key
7458650
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Mark Lynton History Prize, USA, 2012 : Won
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-01-01:
Historian Rosenfeld (Univ. of Virginia) answers this question: "How--and with what lingering consequences--did common sense develop its special relationship in modern times with the kind of popular rule that we call democracy?" That question originates in her reading of Hannah Arendt, who saw "common sense as the lifeblood of democracy." Providing a narrative of what happened while aiming to determine "whether Arendt was right," Rosenfeld's is a "philosophical history." Her wide-ranging account begins in the wake of the English Glorious Revolution of 1688, when "the modern history of common sense takes off." Important was Shaftesbury's essay "Sensus Communis" (1709). A key chapter explores the "Common Sense philosophers" (Thomas Reid, James Beattie, and James Oswald) in 18th-century Aberdeen. Also key was Philadelphia, where Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" (1776) employed common sense as "a weapon to be deployed against the sense of things that was ... actually common." For Rosenfeld, "populism" is not a 19th-century invention, but originates instead with James Cannon and others who drafted the "radical" Philadelphia Constitution of 1776. Chapter five explores revolutionary Paris. A concluding chapter, as its subtitle indicates, considers "The Fate of Common Sense in the Modern World." Summing Up: Recommended. Research libraries. M. G. Spencer Brock University
Appeared in Library Journal on 2011-05-15:
We often hear politicians and pundits speak of "common sense." Now Rosenfeld (history, Univ. of Virginia; A Revolution in Language) insightfully traces the turns the phrase has taken since it came into use in 18th-century urban centers. She covers London, where Joseph Addison and Richard Steele offered common sense in The Spectator as a calming answer to conflicting opinion after the Glorious Revolution; Aberdeen, where a group of Presbyterians found a shared capacity to see waywardness in the skeptical thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment; Amsterdam, where a circle of French writers used the term impiously to mock conventional wisdom; and Philadelphia, where Thomas Paine employed common sense as a means to bring down a government. Here, too, is Paris, where those against the Revolution used common sense to critique democracy. Rosenfeld treats the post-18th-century era more briefly in a final chapter. VERDICT Readers may only be disappointed that Rosenfeld does not cover recent times, most especially today's conservative purveyors of common sense. Her book is a model of how a fine work of history may enlighten readers about polemics without being a polemic itself. Rich, graceful, often witty, this is very highly recommended for academic and serious readers.-Bob Nardini, Nashville (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
A tour de force. Rosenfeld shows, as no scholar has before, how what was once a technical term in Aristotelian philosophy was transformed over the long eighteenth century to become the justification for the democratic wisdom of 'the people.'
Breathtakingly original and daring, this book will force every reader to rethink the foundations of democracy in the modern world.
Rosenfeld illuminates one of the key ingredients of democratic-populist politics: that the common sense of the people offers a better guide to politics than the wisdom of elites. Learned and arresting, thiis book compels us to see that the rhetoric of common sense is anything but straightforward-or common.
Sophia Rosenfeld's superb intellectual history traces the strange birth and controversial afterlives of one of our most fundamental political concepts. Lively and learned, it sheds long-range light on contemporary anxieties about democratic populism and those who would manipulate it in the name of 'common sense.'
We often hear politicians and pundits speak of 'common sense.' Now Rosenfeld insightfully traces the turns the phrase has taken since it came into use in 18th-century urban centers...Her book is a model of how a fine work of history may enlighten readers about polemics without being a polemic itself. Rich, graceful, often witty, this is very highly recommended.
Rosenfeld seeks to explain how the "common sense" of the people became a touchstone of political wisdom and a ubiquitous catch-phrase in political debate across the Western world...Rosenfeld is a shrewd and inventive historian. She has excavated the rhetoric of common sense from an impressive number of sites and has shaped this diverse evidence into a smart and plausible narrative. She writes with verve...Rosenfeld warns us that common sense is sometimes just an honorific that we bestow upon our prejudices.
The idea of common sense pops up in many different guises throughout modern history, and one of Rosenfeld's more interesting points is that it is hardly ever utilized the same way twice...Rosenfeld rightly points out that common sense is most often utilized against some sort of Other, with politicians touting their own sensible ideas against some sort of radical, extreme ideology, whether that be liberal or conservative. In bringing the power of the vote to the people, democracy has also ensured that politicians must convince the people that they're just another one of the folks...From the populist demagoguery of the Tea Party to the social leveling provided by the Internet, common sense is now a more powerful force than ever. Myth or no, the political effects of common sense will not be going away any time soon. Rosenfeld's book may not necessarily provide an answer to all the thorny political issues of the present, but it does provide a fascinating look back through our intellectual history, and offers a excellent view of the foundations of modern populism.
As Sophia Rosenfeld emphasizes in her illuminating new book, Common Sense: A Political History, the concept actually belongs to the realm of propaganda, power, and protest. Over the centuries, the appeal to the unerring, intuitive, and shared knowledge of average people has been the rhetorical tool of populist movements on the left as well as on the right. A claim to possess the common sense about a matter rarely ends a debate; more often it has acted as a pivot for violent disagreements as each side mobilizes its version of self-evident truth...The diligent reader is rewarded with keen insights into how the belief in plain people's access to truth has contributed to demolishing established forms of authority--whether law, tradition, or faith.
As Sophia Rosenfeld, a historian at the University of Virginia, shows in Common Sense: A Political History, common sense was invented by scientists, philosophers, and politicians. It only seems self-evident now because the idea of common sense presents itself as common-sensical, as though everyone, were he not disabused of the notion by experts, would know that he possessed it. Common sense is, as she puts it, a "slippery" idea--the kind of idea that covers its own tracks...To understand how democracy works, you have to understand the way that the crazy dream of common sense is nurtured, maintained, exploited, and defended.
This item was reviewed in:
Wall Street Journal, April 2011
Library Journal, May 2011
Choice, January 2012
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Common sense has always been a cornerstone of American politics. In 1776, Tom Paine’s vital pamphlet with that title sparked the American Revolution. And today, common sense-the wisdom of ordinary people, knowledge so self-evident that it is beyond debate-remains a powerful political ideal, utilized alike by George W. Bush’s aw-shucks articulations and Barack Obama’s down-to-earth reasonableness. But far from self-evident is where our faith in common sense comes from, and how its populist logic has shaped modern democracy. Common Sense: A Political History is the first book to explore this essential political phenomenon. The story begins in the aftermath of England’s Glorious Revolution, when common sense first became a political ideal worth struggling over. Sophia Rosenfeld’s accessible and insightful account then wends its way across two continents and multiple centuries, revealing the remarkable individuals who appropriated the old, seemingly universal idea of common sense and the new strategic uses they made of it. Paine my have boasted that common sense is always on the side of the people and opposed to the rule of kings, but Rosenfeld demonstrates that common sense has been used to foster demagoguery and exclusivity as well as popular sovereignty. She provides a new account of the transatlantic Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions, and offers a fresh reading on what the eighteenth century bequeathed to the political ferment of our own time. Far from commonsensical, the history of common sense turns out to be rife with paradox and surprise.
Main Description
Common sense has always been a cornerstone of American politics. In 1776, Tom Paine's vital pamphlet with that title sparked the American Revolution. And today, common sense-the wisdom of ordinary people, knowledge so self-evident that it is beyond debate-remains a powerful political ideal, utilized alike by George W. Bush's aw-shucks articulations and Barack Obama's down-to-earth reasonableness. But far from self-evident is where our faith in common sense comes from, and how its populist logic has shaped modern democracy. Common Sense: A Political History is the first book to explore this essential political phenomenon.The story begins in the aftermath of England's Glorious Revolution, when common sense first became a political ideal worth struggling over. Sophia Rosenfeld's accessible and insightful account then wends its way across two continents and multiple centuries, revealing the remarkable individuals who appropriated the old, seemingly universal idea of common sense and the new strategic uses they made of it. Paine my have boasted that common sense is always on the side of the people and opposed to the rule of kings, but Rosenfeld demonstrates that common sense has been used to foster demagoguery and exclusivity as well as popular sovereignty. She provides a new account of the transatlantic Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions, and offers a fresh reading on what the eighteenth century bequeathed to the political ferment of our own time. Far from commonsensical, the history of common sense turns out to be rife with paradox and surprise.
Bowker Data Service Summary
Common sense has always been a cornerstone of American politics. In 1776, Tom Paine's vital pamphlet with that title sparked the American Revolution. But far from self-evident is where our faith in common sense comes from, and how its populist logic has shaped modern democracy. This book explores the political phenomena.
Main Description
Common sense has always been a cornerstone of American politics. In 1776, Tom Paines vital pamphlet with that title sparked the American Revolution. And today, common sense-the wisdom of ordinary people, knowledge so self-evident that it is beyond debate-remains a powerful political ideal, utilized alike by George W. Bushs aw-shucks articulations and Barack Obamas down-to-earth reasonableness. But far from self-evident is where our faith in common sense comes from and how its populist logic has shaped modern democracy. Common Sense: A Political History is the first book to explore this essential political phenomenon. The story begins in the aftermath of Englands Glorious Revolution, when common sense first became a political ideal worth struggling over. Sophia Rosenfelds accessible and insightful account then wends its way across two continents and multiple centuries, revealing the remarkable individuals who appropriated the old, seemingly universal idea of common sense and the new strategic uses they made of it. Paine may have boasted that common sense is always on the side of the people and opposed to the rule of kings, but Rosenfeld demonstrates that common sense has been used to foster demagoguery and exclusivity as well as popular sovereignty. She provides a new account of the transatlantic Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions, and offers a fresh reading on what the eighteenth century bequeathed to the political ferment of our own time. Far from commonsensical, the history of common sense turns out to be rife with paradox and surprise.
Main Description
Common sense has always been a cornerstone of American politics. In 1776, Tom Paine's vital pamphlet with that title sparked the American Revolution. And today, common sense-the wisdom of ordinary people, knowledge so self-evident that it is beyond debate-remains a powerful political ideal, utilized alike by George W. Bush's aw-shucks articulations and Barack Obama's down-to-earth reasonableness. But far from self-evident is where our faith in common sense comes from and how its populist logic has shaped modern democracy. Common Sense: A Political History is the first book to explore this essential political phenomenon. The story begins in the aftermath of England's Glorious Revolution, when common sense first became a political ideal worth struggling over. Sophia Rosenfeld's accessible and insightful account then wends its way across two continents and multiple centuries, revealing the remarkable individuals who appropriated the old, seemingly universal idea of common sense and the new strategic uses they made of it. Paine may have boasted that common sense is always on the side of the people and opposed to the rule of kings, but Rosenfeld demonstrates that common sense has been used to foster demagoguery and exclusivity as well as popular sovereignty. She provides a new account of the transatlantic Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions, and offers a fresh reading on what the eighteenth century bequeathed to the political ferment of our own time. Far from commonsensical, the history of common sense turns out to be rife with paradox and surprise.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. 1
The Ghost of Common Sense: London, 1688-1739p. 17
Everyman's Perception of the World: Aberdeen, 1758-1770p. 56
The Radical Uses of Bon Sens: Amsterdam, 1760-1775p. 90
Building a Common Sense Republic: Philadelphia, 1776p. 136
Making War on Revolutionary Reason: Paris, 1790-1792p. 181
Königsberg to New York: The Fate of Common Sense in the Modern Worldp. 221
Notesp. 259
Acknowledgmentsp. 321
Indexp. 325
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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