A World History of Political Thought
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A World History of Political Thought

J. Babb

A World History of Political Thought is an outstanding and innovative work with profound significance for the study of the history of political thought, providing a wide-ranging, detailed and global overview of political thought from 600 BC to the 21st century. Treating both western and non-western systems of political thought as equal and placing them as they should be; side by side.
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Chapter 11: Revolution, romanticism and reform (1760–1860)

J. Babb


This is the age of revolution, particularly the American and French revolutions, but it is important to consider the conservative and romantic reaction to revolution at the same time discussing the attempts at liberal and modernizing reforms around the world inspired by revolutionary change. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is important as both a revolutionary thinker and a romantic who rejected aspects of the enlightenment. Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson are important in the context of the American revolution but so is Sim—n Bol'var in Latin American. The conservative reaction to revolution is well-represented by Edmund Burke, Joseph-Marie de Maistre and Juan Donoso Cortés. Although not strictly part of the romantic movement, it makes sense to examine the thought of Fichte in addition to the more important German romantics such as Novalis. In this context, Coleridge and Carlyle can be viewed as conservative and romantic political thinkers but so too Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau. Finally, the Japanese Kokugaku or “nativist” movement can be seen as a form of romanticism with similar political implications. The key world liberal reformers must include the “Hindu” Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Muslim political administrators and thinkers such as Khayr al-Din Pasha al-Tunsi and Ahmad ibn Abi Diyaf in the Ottoman empire, Syed Ahmad Khan in India) and Mirza Yusef Khan in Persia, all of whom demonstrate an early trend toward liberal reform in Islamic states that was undermined by Western imperialism as shown in the next chapter. Note is also taken of important liberal reformers in Latin America, such as Andrés Bello, and also the romantic liberal reformers Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Juan Bautista Alberdi, not to mention Catholic reformers, including José Maria Luis Mora and Félix Varela y Morales. In Europe, one should also mention Benjamin Constant who was influential beyond his native France and contrast him with Peter Chaadayev whose faint liberal influence was quickly crushed in Russia. This is also the time when women thinkers become prominent, particularly Mary Wollstonecraft, but also Marie Gouze who together with Marquis de Condorcet advocated the involvement of women in politics in the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution.

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