In Defence of the Terror

Written by Sophie Wahnich, Foreword by Slavoj Zizek | Translated by David Fernbach
In Defence of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution

Provocative reassessment of the Great Terror as a price worth paying.

For two hundred years after the French Revolution, the Republican tradition celebrated the execution of princes and aristocrats, defending the Terror that the Revolution inflicted upon on its enemies. But recent decades have brought a marked change in sensibility. The Revolution is no longer judged in terms of historical necessity but rather by “timeless” standards of morality. In this succinct essay, Sophie Wahnich explains how, contrary to prevailing interpretations, the institution of Terror sought to put a brake on legitimate popular violence—in Danton’s words, to “be terrible so as to spare the people the need to be so”—and was subsequently subsumed in a logic of war. The Terror was “a process welded to a regime of popular sovereignty, the only alternatives being to defeat tyranny or die for liberty.”

Reviews:

In Defence of the Terror is a provocative and compelling essay, well written and impressively concise, with a good mix of contemporary resonance and archival detail.” — Peter Hallward

  • “An intriguing take on modern social issues and history.”
  • “In this portable (5.5x8") study, Wahnich (the Laboratory of the Anthropology of Institutions and Social Organizations, France) goes against current historical interpretations of the Jacobin Terror of the French Revolution when she says that the Terror was a precisely planned and controlled attempt to prevent further violence by the public. She also compares the French revolutionary Terror with recent fundamentalist terrorism.”

More info

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Sign in or register to post comments.

More new titles

new titles

In My Heart

In My Heart is a charming children's book that illustrates feelings in words and pictures.
new titles

The Mirabelle Pickers

In this beautifully translated memoir Jacques Réda chooses the height of the mirabelle season in Lorraine for a long-delayed visit to his home town, Lunéville. Réda retraces childhood routes – scrupulously avoiding, at first, the street where he lived – and renews acquaintances along the way.
new titles

Guys Like Me

Dominique Fabre, born in Paris and a lifelong resident of the city, exposes the shadowy, anonymous lives of many who inhabit the French capital in a quiet, subdued tale. Set in palpably real Paris streets that feel miles away from the City of Light, "Guys Like Me" is a stirring novel of regret and absence, yet not without a glimmer of hope.
1/3
MORE IN books
authors on tour

Marie-Hélène/Sam Bourcier

November 5-17, 2016
US Tour
authors on tour

Pap Ndiaye

November 4-13, 2016
East Coast
authors on tour

Vinciane Despret

October 29-November 8, 2016
US Tour
authors on tour

Antoine Volodine

October 11-18, 2016
West Coast
event

Lecture on "La Cache" by Christophe Boltanski and Laura Marris

09/27/2016 | 4pm
Yale University
Whitney Humanities Center
53 Wall Street, Room 208
New Haven, CT