Israel, Jonathan. A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy.
First, a proposition: take the ruthless historical categorizations of Jonathan Israel, add to them the apocalyptic perspective on recent world history taken by Mike Davis (in Planet of Slums), spice with a productivist reading of Marx—you will have the politico-intellectual framework of Hardt and Negri.
A Revolution of the Mind is ultimately an argument about the nature of the French Revolution and political modernity, drawn as a consequence of
The prevailing view about the French Revolution not being causes by books and ideas in the first place may be very widely influential but it is also, on the basis of the detailed evidence, totally indefensible. Indeed, without referring to Radical Enlightenment nothing about the French Revolution makes the slightest sense or can even begin to be provisionally explained. (224)
Radical Enlightenment ideas about democracy and equality officially organize our political world. They have never been more than very partially applied. Their surge before and during the Revolution was followed by a long struggle. In his preface,
Not only scholars but also the general reading debating, and voting public need some awareness of the tremendous difficulty, struggle, and cost involved in propagating out core ideas in the face of the long-dominant monarchical, aristocratic, and religious ideologies, privileged oligarchies and elites, and in the face also of the various Counter-Enlightenment popular movements that so resolutely and vehemently combated egalitarian and democratic values from the mid-seventeenth century down to the crushing of Nazism, the supreme Counter-Enlightenment, in 1945. (x-xi)
Names are good shorthand for understanding how
The very moral and intellectual clarity of
In short, everything that ‘we’ hold dear today flows from Spinoza, and has its metaphysical foundation in his monism. This is the source of modern notions of democracy, equality, liberty, justice, universalism, and revolution.
Again, it seems to me that Israel’s connection of Spinoza’s metaphysics to democratic egalitarianism, to the modern impulse toward justice and equality, would fit well into the genealogy that Hardt and Negri work out for themselves of ‘immanent-materialist’ philosophy (if memory serves) in Empire.