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The Autocritique of Enlightenment: Rousseau and the Philosophes
This text provides an analysis of the life and works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an area often overlooked in accounts of 18th-century heritage. Mark Hulliung restores Rousseau to his historical context, the world of the philosophes, and shows how he employed the arsenal of Voltaire, Diderot and others to launch a powerful attack on their vision of the Enlightenment.
Hardcover, 293 pages
Published August 5th 1998 by Harvard University Press
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This is a strange book which is much better on the philosophes than it is on Rousseau. It’s true that Rousseau often is not served well by scholars who look at the Enlightenment as a whole (though I think Hulliung's criticism of Peter Gay is unfair). But reading Rousseau back into the Enlightenment by reading the Enlightenment back into Rousseau is a bizarre strategy. No matter how much Hulliung would like to convince us otherwise, the Enlightenment wasn't a series of footnotes to Rousseau.
A lucid explanation by my old Brandeis U prof, Mark Hulliung, of how Jean-Jacques Rousseau both epitomized and ruthlessly criticized the 18th-century French Enlightenment of the Encyclopedie and the philosophes. Hulliung cogently argues that it is a mistake to locate Rousseau within the Romantic tradition of 19th-century Europe, but that he instead belongs firmly to the Enlightenment tradition of anti-clericalism, individualism, and empirical observation, even as he was far more radically ...more