Book (electronic)

The virtues of violence: democracy against disintegration in modern France (2020)

in: Oxford scholarship online

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This book uncovers an unfamiliar vision of political violence that nonetheless prevailed in modern French thought: that through "redemptive violence" the people would not rend but regenerate society. It homes in on invocations of popular redemptive violence across four historical moments in France specifically: the French Revolution, Algeria's colonization, the Paris Commune, and the eve of the first World War. In each of these cases, the book reveals how French thinkers experienced democratization as social disintegration. Yet, before such danger, they also proclaimed that virtuous violence by the people could repair the social fabric. The path leading from an anarchic multitude to an organized democratic society required, not violence's prohibition, but its virtuous expression by the people.