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A Modern Maistre The Social and Political Thought of Joseph de Maistre by Owen Bradley

A Modern Maistre The Social and Political Thought of Joseph de Maistre


A Modern Maistre The Social and Political Thought of Joseph de Maistre by Owen Bradley

A Modern Maistre provides the first general account of the social and political thought of Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), a founding author of Continental conservative philosophy. Commonly repudiated or ignored as an inconsistent and retrograde extremist, Maistre emerges on closer consideration as a subtle social theorist and a shaping force in modern intellectual history. Through his decisive effect upon Comte and Baudelaire, Maistre's influence far exceeds the narrow conservatism with which he is usually associated. Indeed, his critique of the Enlightenment bears an uncanny resemblance to central claims of postmodernist thought. The guiding thread of Owen Bradley's analysis is Maistre's theory of sacrifice, a comparativist study of the ritualization of human barbarity in religious practices, punishments, wars, and revolutions. Against the Enlightenment, Maistre insisted upon the central and inevitable place of violence and irrationality in human experience, a dark view of humanity that anticipates the doubts of the twentieth century. His central concern was how human disorder is shaped, limited, and managed by ritualized behaviors and symbolic forms. As Bradley demonstrates, Maistre was less an extremist obsessed with excess and paradox than an important theorist of excessive and paradoxical situations. The Maistre who emerges from this study is a far more nuanced, compelling, and modern author than has been previously imagined.


Bradley's work makes an important contribution, not only to our understanding of Joseph de Maistre and his thought, but to contemporary reflection on a host of general philosophical and political questions. . . . The political and theoretical issues that Maistre addressed remain, unfortunately, issues that continue to challenge us today. In helping us to understand Maistre, Bradley helps us to understand the problems of our own time. -Richard A. Lebrun, author of Joseph de Maistre: An Intellectual Militant -- Richard A. Lebrun [Bradley] is very successful in arguing that scholars have been one-sided and anachronistic in their assessment of the French conservative. . . . A provocative and engaging reassessment of an important if unsettling thinker. -American Historical Review * American Historical Review *

About the Author

Owen Bradley is an assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st August 1999


Owen Bradley

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University of Nebraska Press


274 pages


General & world history



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