A Classical Republican in Eighteenth-Century France: The Political Thought of Mably

A Classical Republican in Eighteenth-Century France: The Political Thought of Mably

A Classical Republican in Eighteenth-Century France: The Political Thought of Mably

A Classical Republican in Eighteenth-Century France: The Political Thought of Mably

Synopsis

Mably emerges as a central figure in the history of republican thought in the era of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Wright also presents his own conclusions about the character of classical republicanism in France.

Excerpt

Where would the history of ideas be without that familiar figure, the "unjustly neglected" thinker who enjoyed a vast reputation in his or her lifetime, only to fall into an unaccountable oblivion at some later point? Often enough, of course, closer inspection reveals either that this neglect has been exaggerated for rhetorical purposes, or that it is in fact perfectly justified. Nevertheless, it does sometimes happen that important thinkers escape the attention they deserve from historians of ideas. The subject of this study, Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, is surely one of these. By any reckoning, Mably, whose public career as a writer extended from 1740 to the eve of the French Revolution, was a major figure in the intellectual life of eighteenth- century France. It is impossible to work in the fields of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution without encountering his name at every turn. Indeed, the Revolution may have raised Mably's reputation to a higher level than he enjoyed in his lifetime, winning him notoriety that persisted throughout most of the nineteenth century.

Yet for all his contemporary and posthumous fame and impact, Mably has never been the subject of more than a very modest scholarly literature. This neglect is nowhere more evident than in the world of Anglo-American scholarship--it has been more than sixty years since the appearance of the only survey of his life and thought in English. The chief purpose of this book, whose form is that of an intellectual biography, is simply to fill this gap. At the same time, this study also presents a novel interpretation of Mably's thought. When twentieth-century scholars have looked at Mably, they have tended to portray him in two sharply contrasted ways--either as a fundamentally progressive thinker, one of a handful of utopian communists of the French Enlightenment and thus a "precursor" of . . .

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