Revue de Presse: January 5

5 January 2020


Writing for the Age of Revolutions, Blake Smith returns to Emile Durkeim’s famous argument that the French Revolution displayed a religious “effervescence.” With Durkheim in mind, Smith revisits historian Lynn Hunt’s 1989 article “The Sacred and the French Revolution.” Hunt’s emphasis on the religious element of the Revolution, Smith argues, offered an important alternative to both Marxist interpretations and François Furet’s critique of class-driven historiography.  


The effects of 1789 extended well beyond France and Western Europe, and more and more historians recognize the importance of the Haitian Revolution. In the New York Review of Books, David Bell highlights some recent scholarship on the revolt in Saint-Domingue, the French Caribbean colony now known as Haiti. Global networks shaped Saint-Domingue’s slave economy—and also its people’s demand for universal rights. 


Whitney Sha’s essay for The Point uses Jacques Rancière’s critique of the domineering schoolmaster to compare the differences between American and French pedagogy. In Sha’s experience, American professors are more likely to hold office hours and develop informal relationships with their students, while French courses tend to unfold in large university lecture halls. Rancière boldly challenged the French model, but Sha is not so sure American academia showcases a clearer understanding of what makes for good teaching. What should students expect of their professor? An engaging lecturer? Socratic mastery? A “practical kind of savoir faire”? Sha’s essay demands a reassessment of educational authority. 


In The London Review of Books David Runciman offers a detailed reading of the final volume in Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher trilogy. Runciman takes us on a tour of the “high Tory politics” that defined Thatcher’s last years in office. The Thatcher era ended just before the founding of the European Union, and Runciman evaluates the extent to which conservative infighting over Britain’s relationship with Europe will endure after Boris Johnson’s landslide victory.  


In an essay for The Nation, Jesse McCarthy looks back on novelist Toni Morrison’s non-fiction essays. McCarthy reads Morrison as an exemplar of the black humanist tradition and stresses her sense of “rogue sanity.” Morrison managed to propel readers toward a sense of the future, even as her writing specialized in narrating the tragedies of America’s past. 


Countries like Australia and Brazil are burning, but leaders around the world either remain committed to climate denial, or embrace a xenophobic environmental nationalism. Philosopher Pierre Charbonnier, interviewed this week on France Culture, has written an environmental history of modern political thought to help make sense of how we got here. In Abondance et liberté, Charbonnier calls for a return to a critique of growth and “productivism,” coupled with a reimagining of collective freedom and democracy in the age of climate change.


David Djaïz sat down for an interview with Le Monde to talk about his new book, Slow Democracy. According to Djaïz, 1980 marked a turning-point, away from bridled markets and unbridled democracy and toward bridled democracy and unbridled markets. The crisis of democracy and the rise of populism we see across the world today is an expression of the desire to take back control, however misguided. Djaïz attempts to outline a more intelligent solution for reining in capitalism and respecting democratic and ecological limits. For this project to work, the nation-state has a central role to play in redistributing the fruits of a global economy.


Photo Credit: Peter Lawrence, London Underground, via Unsplash.


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