Post-Modern Law: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Death of Man

Post-Modern Law: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Death of Man

Post-Modern Law: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Death of Man

Post-Modern Law: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Death of Man

Excerpt

ANTHONY CARTY

The Enlightenment marks a particular episode in the history of thought. Post-modernity marks the end of this episode. An air of obscurity appears to surround its main protagonists, such as Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard and Lyotard. These are all French thinkers and hence the temptation is to consider they are the product of one more 'trendy' and insubstantial 'left-bank' intellectual vogue. However, these thinkers come out of the very same tradition which is recognised as having given birth to the 'revolutionary' Enlightenment which produced 'modern' law, i.e. the first French Civil Code, the first Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the first attempts at a modern constitution, based directly on the sovereignty of the people. So their attack on the cultural foundations of this tradition is of universal import. They are reputed to attack the virtues of clarity and lucidity which were to have made possible the foundation of society upon natural reason, the self-evident rights of man, and the confidently expressed will of the collectivity capable of emancipating itself from superstition, tradition and blind acceptance of authority. Indeed, it is readily recognised that they are not aiming to 'contribute' to social knowledge. In France, the post- modern attack on the 'Rights of Man' is well known and arouses immense fear. Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut attack it in a very personal and polemical way in "La Pensée 68: Essai sur l'antihumanisme contemporain". They try to associate it with an ephemeral and irresponsible outburst of romantic 'unpolitics'. They follow Lipovetsky who notes, very perceptively: 'The other is perceived not through the eyes of equality or inequality, but with an amused curiosity.'

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