In Defence of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution

Overview

For two hundred years after the French Revolution, the Republican tradition celebrated the execution of princes and aristocrats, defending the Terror that the Revolution inflicted upon on its enemies. But recent decades have brought a marked change in sensibility. The Revolution is no longer judged in terms of historical necessity but rather by “timeless” standards of morality. In this succinct essay, Sophie Wahnich explains how, contrary to prevailing interpretations, the institution of Terror sought to put a ...

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In Defence of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution

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Overview

For two hundred years after the French Revolution, the Republican tradition celebrated the execution of princes and aristocrats, defending the Terror that the Revolution inflicted upon on its enemies. But recent decades have brought a marked change in sensibility. The Revolution is no longer judged in terms of historical necessity but rather by “timeless” standards of morality. In this succinct essay, Sophie Wahnich explains how, contrary to prevailing interpretations, the institution of Terror sought to put a brake on legitimate popular violence—in Danton’s words, to “be terrible so as to spare the people the need to be so”—and was subsequently subsumed in a logic of war. The Terror was “a process welded to a regime of popular sovereignty, the only alternatives being to defeat tyranny or die for liberty.”

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Editorial Reviews

Peter Hallward
In Defence of the Terror is a provocative and compelling essay, well written and impressively concise, with a good mix of contemporary resonance and archival detail.”
From the Publisher
In Defence of the Terror is a provocative and compelling essay, well written and impressively concise, with a good mix of contemporary resonance and archival detail.”—Peter Hallward

“An intriguing take on modern social issues and history.”—The Midwest Book Review

“In this portable (5.5 x 8") study, Wahnich (the Laboratory of the Anthropology of Institutions and Social Organizations, France) goes against current historical interpretations of the Jacobin Terror of the French Revolution when she says that the Terror was a precisely planned and controlled attempt to prevent further violence by the public. She also compares the French revolutionary Terror with recent fundamentalist terrorism.”—Book News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844678624
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 8/7/2012
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sophie Wahnich is a historian based at the Laboratoire d’anthropologie des institutions et des organisations sociales in Paris. Her previous publications include L’impossible citoyen. L’étranger dans le discours dela Révolution française and La Longue patience du peuple: 1792, naissancede la République.

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His books include Living in the End Times, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, In Defense of Lost Causes, four volumes of the Essential Žižek, and many more.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: The Dark Matter of Violence, Or, Putting Terror in Perspective Slavoj Zizek xi

Acknowledgements xxxi

Introduction: An Intolerable Revolution 1

1 The Emotions in the Demand for Terror 21

2 The September Massacres 35

3 The Terror as a Long Cycle of Vengeance: Towards a Reinterpretation of the Laws of Terror 57

4 The People and the Popular 79

Conclusion: The Terror and Terrorism 97

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