Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CFP: "Rousseau and Revolution," Institute of Philosophy and the History of Ideas, University of Aarhus, March 13- 15, 2009.

Fidel Castro once told a journalist that one of his masters was Jean- Jacques Rousseau and that he fought Batista with a copy of the Social Contract in his pocket. This anecdote, true or false, calls attention to an aspect of Rousseau’s philosophy which is often ignored or forgotten in academic discussions, namely that his philosophy has often been used, for good or bad, to inspire and legitimize revolutions and rebellions, beginning with the French Revolution. As for Rousseau himself he certainly claimed that one should "never shake the machine too brusquely" but at the same time he supported national insurrections in Poland and Corsica. So, we have Rousseau both supporting and criticizing revolution just as Rousseau in the French Revolution was used by both the defenders and opponents of the revolution. In the 200 years after a consensus seems to have emerged among Rousseau’s friends and enemies that he was a supporter of revolution. The friends have found inspiration in his texts and the enemies has used Rousseau to claim a totalitarian or terroristic consequence of all attempts at revolution, again starting from the French Revolution. This conference wants to explore these multiple and often contradictory links between Rousseau’s thinking and revolutions both in his own work and its afterlife. Examples of possible topics include but are not limited to: • Rousseau’s conception of popular uprising and political change • Rousseau’s support of insurrection in Poland and Corsica • The references to Rousseau in different revolutionary periods, for instance in the writings of Robespierre, Lenin and others • The possibility of understanding modern revolutions and rebellions in Rousseau’s terms • The counter-revolutionary understanding of Rousseau as the "mad dog of revolution" • The use of Rousseau to allege a necessary and inevitable connection between revolution and terror There are two ways of attending the conference: with or without paper: • With paper: abstracts of maximum 200 words should be emailed by December 1, 2008 to Paper presentations will be 30 minutes. The papers will subsequently be invited for publication in a forthcoming anthology. • Without paper: deadline for registration to is February 1, 2009. For both: please include return email address and institutional affiliation for all submissions. Keynote Speakers: • James Swenson: associate professor of French at Rutger’s Univerity, specializing in eighteenth-century literature and intellectual history, and twentieth-century criticism and theory and the author of the highly acclaimed On Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Considered as One of the First Authors of the Revolution. • Blaise Bachofen: associate professor of philosophy at the University of Cergy-Pontoise, publisher of commented texts of Rousseau and the author of the acclaimed La Condition de la liberté: Rousseau, critique des raisons politiques ("The Condition of Liberty. Rousseau, a Critique of Political Reason").

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