Billington James Hadley - Fire in the minds of men

Author : Billington James Hadley
Title : Fire in the minds of men Origins of the revolutionary faith
Year : 1980

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This book seek to trace the origin of a faith-perhap the faith of our time. Modern revolutionaries are believers, no less committed and intense than were the Christians or Muslims of an earlier era. What is new is the belief that a perfect secular order will emerge from the forcible overthrow of traditional authority. This inherently implausible idea gave dynamism to Europe in the nineteenth century, and has become the most successful ideological export of the West to the world in the twentieth. This is a story not of revolutions, but of revolutionaries : the innovative creators of a new tradition. The historical frame is the century and a quarter that extends from the waning of the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century to the beginnings of the Russian Revolution in the early twentieth. The theater was Europe of the industrial era ; the main stage, journalistic offices within great European cities. The dialogue of imaginative symbols and theoretical disputes produced much of the language of modern politics. At center stage stood the characteristic, nineteenth-century European revolutionary : a thinker lifted up by ideas, not a worker or peasant bent down by toil. He was part of a small elite whose story must be told "from above," much as it may displease those who believe that history in general ( and revolutionary history in particular ) is basically made by socio-economic pressures "from below." This "elite" focus does not imply indifference to the mass, human suffering which underlay the era of this narrative. It reflects only the special need to concentrate here on the spiritual thirst of those who think rather than on the material hunger of those who work. For it was passionate intellectuals who created and developed the revolutionary faith. This work seeks to explore concretely the tradition of revolutionaries, not to explain abstractly the process of revolution. My approach has been inductive rather than deductive, explorative rather than definitive : an attempt to open up rather than "cover" the subject. My general conclusions can be stated simply at the outset-and, for the sake of argument, more bluntly than they may appear in the text that follows. The revolutionary faith was shaped not so much by the critical rationalism of the French Enlightenment ( as is generally believed ) as by the occultism and proto-romanticism of Germany. This faith was incubated in France during the revolutionary era within a small subculture of literary intellectuals who were immersed in journalism, fascinated by secret societies , and subsequently infatuated with "ideologies" as a secular surrogate for religious belief. ...

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Balder Ex-Libris