The Longing for Total Revolution: Philosophic Sources of Social Discontent from Rousseau to Marx and Nietzsche, Bernard Yack (Princeton University Press, 1986). This is a book by Bernard Yack. Who is Bernard Yack? Yack is fun, because for a mild-mannered liberal Canadian political theorist he’s dropped some dank truth-bombs over the years. For example, check out his short and punchy 2001 journal article “
I think the idea that radicalism was invented in the 17th/18th century fails by a strict reading of the claim, but succeeds if you weaken the claim a bit.
I can think of very few, but nonzero radical movements that precede the 17th century, and you definitely wouldn’t call them undertheorized. The Anabaptists of Muenster are 17th century, the Levellers of the English Civil War are 16th century. You’ve got Christianity and Islam (extremely socially radical by any definition), you’ve got Mazdak, a Zoroastrian radical slightly pre-Islam, and then I’m gonna throw Akhenaten in for good measure. I’m sure there are plenty more. Lycurgus of Sparta perhaps.
They all made or wanted sweeping social changes, but the context and driving ideology was exclusively religious. So I think the original claim is false, but can be rescued by appeal to “not exclusively religious radicalism.”
I know that’s not quite the main thrust of the book review, but I think it’s worth pointing out that the radical impulse is definitely not new. To paraphrase Tom Holland, in the ancient world all reforms had to be couched in a fiction of returning to a glorious past (or at least divine approval). Maybe what changed is our lack of need for authoritative validation.
I've been slowly reading all your book reviews. In general very thought provoking. I just wanted to add (the obvious) that the right in the US took over the working class when it was abandoned by the left. And I think Trumps popularity is strong because he remains one of the few political voices that speaks to the working class. Gotta run Saturday is a work day for us cooks. :^)
I'm tempted to quote long passages from the end of Rousseau's first discourse.
Victor Gourevitch was stuck on this otherwise unfortunate panel about his thinking, and I think he's right in saying, "Roussea, as I understand him, is... very moderate in his proposals and practical suggestions... He is certainly not revolutionary. He anticipated revolution, but he never advocated revolution. And on the contrary, warned against it." : https://youtu.be/HSZDYYFBk2A?t=1450
Does Yack talk about the ideas of the Anabaptists/Radical Reformation?