Attack the System: Modern European Intellectual History and the Origins of the Left and Right

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March 29, 2012

'Un dîner de philosophes' by Jean Huber

Keith Preston discusses how the development of modern European intellectual life shaped the political concepts of Left and Right. Topics include:

  • The Enlightenment as the third major phase in European intellectual history following the classical Greco-Roman period and the medieval Christian era.
  • The Enlightenment as a neo-pagan revolution against the post-Hellenic Christian dominance of Western civilization.
  • The English, American, and French Revolutions as political expressions of the Enlightenment.
  • The origins of the political concept of Left and Right in the French Revolution.
  • The major traditions within rightist thought: reactionary, conservative, and bourgeois.
  • The impact of the thought of Nietzsche on the development of the revolutionary right and the Conservative Revolutionaries.
  • The question of whether Fascism and Nationalism Socialism can be properly considered rightist ideologies.
  • Conflicting strands within leftist thought regarding differing views of human nature and the nature of society.
  • Thomas Sowell’s analysis of modern political theory as representing a contrast between constrained and unconstrained visions of human social nature.
  • The American and French revolutions as representing conflicting strands within Enlightenment political philosophy.
  • The rivalry between Marx and Bakunin as symbolic of a conflict within leftist thinking.
  • The thought of Carl Schmitt as a form of modern secular conservatism in the tradition of Hobbes.
  • The irony of the dominance of existentialism and postmodernism in modern liberal thought given the roots of these in the philosophy of Nietzsche.

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3 replies »

  1. I enjoyed this one greatly, Keith. It made me think about where Southern nationalism fits into the picture. It’s definitely on the Right and has aspects of both ‘Throne and Alter’ Rightism and Radical Rightism. Historically, it’s greatest enemy, ironically, has been the more moderate ‘conservatism’ commonly advocated by Southerners who are not Southern nationalists. Today, most of these folks vote GOP.

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