ABOUT THIS BOOK
Who were the Jacobins and what are Jacobinism's implications for today? In a book based on national and local studies--on Marseilles, Nîmes, Lyons, and Paris--one of the leading scholars of the Revolution reconceptualizes Jacobin politics and philosophy and rescues them from recent postmodernist condescension.
Patrice Higonnet documents and analyzes the radical thought and actions of leading Jacobins and their followers. He shows Jacobinism's variety and flexibility, as it emerged in the lived practices of exceptional and ordinary people in varied historical situations. He demonstrates that these proponents of individuality and individual freedom were also members of dense social networks who were driven by an overriding sense of the public good. By considering the most retrograde and the most admirable features of Jacobinism, Higonnet balances revisionist interest in ideology with a social historical emphasis on institutional change. In these pages the Terror becomes a singular tragedy rather than the whole of Jacobinism, which retains value today as an influential variety of modern politics. Higonnet argues that with the recent collapse of socialism and the general political malaise in Western democracies, Jacobinism has regained stature as a model for contemporary democrats, as well as a sober lesson on the limits of radical social legislation.
Higonnet's is a serious and generous enterprise, with an underlying and fervent purpose, to dissociate the French from the Russian Revolution.
-- P. N. Furbank New York Review of Books
The time seems right for a new, post-Marxist, and indeed post-Furetian version of Jacobinism, and this is what Patrice Higonnet now offers us in Goodness Beyond Virtue. It is a surprising, and faintly quixotic construct, for Higonnet endeavors to sketch out a Jacobinism for Our Times which is 'a model for modern democrats'...Patrice Higonnet proposes that the tragedy of the Jacobinism was one in which the Jacobins themselves, as well as their adversaries, were implicated, and that some of the pity we reserve for the victims of the Terror should be extended to its originators.
-- Colin Jones Times Literary Supplement
No aspect of the French Revolution has been more controversial than the Jacobins. Many historians...see them as a pretotalitarian terrorist force...Higonnet offers a scholarly, sweeping, and level-headed corrective to this orthodoxy...Deeply informed, compassionate, and fair, Higonnet's book has brought fresh scholarship, judicious reflections, and intriguing social comparisons to bear on this endlessly fascinating subject.
-- Foreign Affairs
A welcome addition to revolutionary studies. Although there is an extensive literature, best known to specialists on the Revolution on Jacobin clubs and popular societies, much too often Jacobinism is dismissed politically or caricatured ideologically. This book provides a splendid synthesis of the extant scholarship along with a strikingly original, well documented interpretation which takes Jacobinism seriously as a political, ideological, and social formation...This book will surely become a standard for students of modern France and eighteenth-century Europe and, more broadly, for those interested in revolutionary movements and political ideas in the modern world.
-- Joan B. Landes, Pennsylvania State University
This book addresses a key question in modern history that will be of interest to a wide range of educated readers...It is filled with wonderful and rich material...It has an almost meditative structure...[It] is just the kind of book that should be read in class. It takes on one of the most interesting and controversial questions in modern history--why revolutions tend to turn out badly--and offers a judicious, convincing argument based on wide-ranging reading in the secondary literature, in archives, and in other primary sources. The focus on the Jacobins makes great sense, for they are commonly taken as the ancestors of the one-party totalitarian state...His book offers an analysis of the Jacobin mentalité in all its many variations...Immensely illuminating and sagely argued.
-- Lynn Hunt, University of Pennsylvania