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PARABOLAS AND THE FATE OF NATIONS: THE BEGINNINGS OF CONSERVATIVE HISTORICISM IN JOSEPH DE MAISTRE'S DE LA SOUVERAINETE DU PEUPLE

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Abstract:

This is a case study of the birth of conservative historicism out of the Jacobin Terror. The historical rupture represented by the French Revolution provoked reflections on the course and meaning of history among those who, opposed to the Revolution, would become heralds of conservatism. Highly significant -- and heretofore neglected -- among these reflections were those that the Savoyard thinker Joseph de Maistre developed in De la Souverainete du peuple, the precipitate critique of Rousseau’s Du Contrat social that he composed during the years 1794 to 1796. This paper contends that De la Souverainet√© introduced an influential and original form of historicism founded on a combinatorial theory of political constitutions. It likewise demonstrates that, in devising a model for the history of nations, Maistre also defined concepts that would become integral to nineteenth-century positivism, to the then- nascent science of moral statistics, and to French sociology.

Keywords: Cartesianism; Comtian positivism; Considerations on France (1797); French Sociology; Historicism; Jacobin Terror; Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Joseph de Maistre; Legislator; Montesquieu; Newtonianism; On the Sovereignty of the People (1794 to 1796); Social Contract (1762); Tacitus; early Conservatism; ideologues; philosophy of history; reason of state thought; statistics; theory of political constitutions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of History, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9EF, Email: cra22@cam.ac.uk

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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