Quite an interesting musing on liberalism and civilization.
Originally posted on The Charnel-House:
IMAGE: French revolutionary map
of the world, by I.B. Elwe (1792)
Excerpted from a draft for my long-delayed essay (almost a small book now) on the relationship of revolutionary Marxism to revolutionary liberalism.
It is difficult to even mention the concept of civilization without conjuring up images of Occidental hauteur. One is immediately reminded of the so-called “civilizing mission” undertaken by the great colonial powers of Europe. The word’s origins, however, prove far more benign. Nevertheless, the timing of its emergence in history cannot be thought a mere coincidence. “Civilization” is an invention of the bourgeois epoch. According to the French semiotician Émile Benveniste, the term first appeared in print in a 1757 book by the Marquis de Mirabeau. Though it derives more generally from the Latin civilis, denoting a higher degree of urbanity and legality, “civilization” in its modern sense dates only from the Enlightenment. In its post-1765…
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