Enemies of the Enlightenment

Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity Oxford University Press, 2001
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Selected Comments

“Enemies of the Enlightenment is, simply put, the most exciting and important book on the French Revolutionary era to appear since the bicentennial. Required reading not only for students of the French Revolution, but for anyone interested in the creation of modern political culture.” —Carla Hesse, University of California, Berkeley

“Sophisticated and vividly written, consistently even-handed and lucid, a major contribution to our understanding of the intellectual history of the revolutionary era.” —Sophia Rosenfeld, Journal of Modern History

“Books on the anti-philosophers or the Counter-Enlightenment generally sound like the complaints of crotchety conservatives. Darrin McMahon’s books is a splendid exception. It is alert, astute, evenhanded to the protagonists of the past and aware of their implications for the polemics of today. It is a book to make you think.” —Roy S. Porter, late author of The Creation of the Modern World: The British Enlightenment

“Beyond its chronological breadth and the relative novelty of its subject, this book has much to recommend it. Well-written and deeply researched, it takes up important historiographical questions. McMahon’s work answers Roger Chartier’s question about whether the existence of the Enlightenment was merely a fragment of the revolutionaries’ imagination.” —Jack Censer, Journal of Social History

“A well-written study…of an early culture war that will not be unfamiliar to us today — a war of mutual simplification and caricature spiraling downward into suspicion and hate….Presents a useful genealogy of a brand of conservatism that remained influential through the mid-20th century, and, more pressingly, a rough template for a host of counter-Enlightenment ideas that are with us still today.” —Wall Street Journal

“[I]n this sophisticated deconstruction of conservative opposition to the Enlightenment, McMahon…re-envisions intellectual history from 1750 to 1830 as an ideological dialectic foreshadowing the culture wars of our own time and helping to define modernity.” —Publishers Weekly

“Nastily delicious and decidedly well-written” —Don Herzog, Political Theory

“This well-researched and beautifully written study applies insights of recent Enlightenment historiography to the heretofore neglected area of the anti-philosophes.” —Choice

“McMahon’s work … will force revisions both of established views of, and new challenges to, the French and the European Enlightenment.” —Cecilia Miller, Times Literary Supplement

“An excellently researched and elegantly written study . . . . Using the theoretical and methodological tools forged in the last three decades of enlightenment scholarship, McMahon enriches our understanding by broadening the focus of inquiry to include names of largely forgotten men and women from varying geographical and confessional backgrounds whose opposition to the values of the Age of Enlightenment helped to define an intellectual movement. What we are looking at in this important study of the dialectics of Counter-Enlightenment is, in fact, the genesis of the European political Right from its last decade of the ancient regime to the postmodernist era.” —The Historian