Citizens & Cannibals: The French Revolution, the Struggle for Modernity, and the Origins of Ideological Terror

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Rowman & Littlefield, 2001 - History - 624 pages
Why did the French Revolution, informed by Enlightenment principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, end in the Great Reign of Terror? How could once moral citizens transform themselves into bloodthirsty "guillotine cannibals" bent on slaughtering their political opponents? For generations, these questions have mystified historians. Until now. In Citizens and Cannibals, noted scholar Eli Sagan argues that France's failed evolution into a modern state introduced to the world a previously unknown scourge with catastrophic consequences: ideological terror. France's passage into social and political modernity held for its citizens both great promise and great anxiety. Sagan analyzes this anxiety and demonstrates why the ensuing ideological terror is common to many societies in transition, including the transformations of Weimar to Nazi Germany, Czarist to Soviet Russia, and agrarian to Communist China. While the French Revolution may have introduced ideological terror to the world, Sagan makes it clear that Hitler, Stalin, and other dictators have perpetuated its existence time after time. In fact, Sagan concludes that the seeds of ideological terror remain present in all modernizing societies, at all times, and if given the proper conditions they will germinate in a very predictable way. As in his previous books, Sagan explores the past to illuminate the political strengths and moral shortcomings of all democratic societies, past, present, and future. With this brilliant new analysis of the French Revolution, he reminds us once again that the past can still teach us a great deal about our modern predicament--specifically, why all political progress must come at grave cost. Citizens and Cannibals is a rigorous work of history and profound psychological insight that offers readers the most comprehensive explanation of the great ambiguities and contradictions of the modern world.
 

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Citizens & cannibals: the French Revolution, the struggle for modernity, and the origins of ideological terror

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In this important, timely, and extremely complex book, independent scholar and prolific author Sagan blends history, sociology, psychology, and political science in an attempt to answer a key question ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction The Intent of the Book
1
The Triumph of Liberalism Values Mores Mentalites
21
The Triumph of Liberalism Institutions
47
One Revolution or Three?
67
The Promise of Democratic Citizenship
91
The Betrayal of the Promise of Democracy
109
The Mirage of Democratic Citizenship
131
The Bourgeois Life and Capitalism
153
Enemies WithoutTraitors Within Paranoid Purging and SelfDestruction
355
The Great Promise and the Great Anxiety of Modernity
385
The Splitting of the Psyche The Splitting of the World The Projection of Uncontaminated Virtue and Absolute Evil
401
The Flight to Perfection Utopianism as a Defense against ModernityAnxiety
415
Regression to the Borderline Condition On the Psychology of Ideological Terror
439
Terror
457
Robespierre Virtuous Robespierre Paranoid Robespierre Narcissist Robespierre Dictator Robespierre Genius Of Moral Critique Robespierre Terrorist
483
Why and Where Has God Been Pushing Us?
511

The Terrifying Paradox of Individualism
187
Secular Society Nationalism and the Secular Sacred
207
To Rationalize SocietyTo Order the World
241
Anarchy and the Fear of Anarchy
259
Riot Gangsterism Conservative Dictatorship
285
Civilian Control of the Military The Militia and a Citizen Army
307
Paranoid Panic Human Sacrifice as Paranoid Revenge Scapegoats
327
The Politics of the Impossible Skipping a Developmental Stage
537
Notes
555
Bibliography
591
Index
603
About the Author
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

Eli Sagan is the author of several books, most recently The Honey and the Hemlock (Basic Books) and At the Dawn of Tyranny (Knopf). He lives in Englewood, NJ with his wife Frimi.

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