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Nicolas de Condorcet (1743-1794), the innovating founder of mathematical thinking in politics, was the last great philosophe of the French Enlightenment and a central figure in the early years of the French Revolution. His political writings give a compelling vision of human progress across world history and express the hopes of that time in the future perfectibility of man. This volume contains a revised translation of 'The Sketch', written while in hiding from the Jacobin Terror, together with lesser-known writings on the emancipation of women, the abolition of slavery, the meanings of freedom and despotism and reflections on revolutionary violence. The introduction by Steven Lukes and Nadia Urbinati sets these works in context and shows why Condorcet is of real interest today as we reinterpret the meaning of Enlightenment, the very idea of progress and the founding ideas of social democracy.
In "Democracy Disfigured, "Nadia Urbinati diagnoses the ills that beset the body politic in an age of hyper-partisanship and media monopolies and offers a spirited defense of the messy compromises and contentious outcomes that define democracy. Urbinati identifies three types of democratic disfiguration: the unpolitical, the populist, and the plebiscitarian. Each undermines a crucial division that a well-functioning democracy must preserve: the wall separating the free forum of public opinion from the governmental institutions that enact the will of the people. Unpolitical democracy delegitimizes political opinion in favor of expertise. Populist democracy radically polarizes the public forum in which opinion is debated. And plebiscitary democracy overvalues the aesthetic and nonrational aspects of opinion. For Urbinati, democracy entails a permanent struggle to make visible the issues that citizens deem central to their lives. Opinion is thus a form of action as important as the mechanisms that organize votes and mobilize decisions. Urbinati focuses less on the overt enemies of democracy than on those who pose as its friends: technocrats wedded to procedure, demagogues who make glib appeals to "the people," and media operatives who, given their preference, would turn governance into a spectator sport and citizens into fans of opposing teams.
In this book Gobetti explains his idea of "liberal revolution": the constitution of local groups committed to democratic agitation. Gobetti studied Russian and translated several works by the author/playwright Andreiev, and he wrote essays on the Russian Revolution and theater criticism for Gramsci's journal, Ordine Nuovo. He gained his degree in jurisprudence in 1922. With the advent of Mussolini came Gobetti's penned defiance, earning the writer beatings and jailings that compelled him into French exile. He died from illness only days after arriving in Paris. This collection of 35 essays is divided in four: Men, women, and ideas (Gobetti discusses such figures as Trotsky, Woodrow Wilson, Henry Ford, Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg); Our liberalism; Socialism and communism; and Fascism and the missed liberal revolution. Readers are likely to be impressed with the young Gobetti's knowledge of history, a necessary tool to forge what he calls a "consciousness of the state." Includes an extensive introduction.