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.”


  • 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.”
  • “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.”


  • Kristin Ross: The contemporary relevance of the Paris Commune

    Interview with Joseph Confavreux for Mediapart on the occasion of the publication of the French translation of Communal Luxury:  The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune 

    Convinced that “the world of the Communards is closer to us than the world of our parents,” and that “it is actions that produce dreams and not the reverse,” Kristin Ross explores the imaginary and the practices of the Paris Commune, in order to show its political actuality today. At the juncture of a history of ideas, of imaginaries and of facts, Ross, a Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University, explores the Commune and its “afterlives,” in a book that is at once a textual study, an exploration of the thoughts and practices of Communards and their fellow travelers, and a political proposition for the present moment. 

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  • Philosophy Football - January Competition!

    Enter this month's competition to win Philosophy Football's new Eton Rifles T-shirt and a copy of four of the outfitter's favorites from Verso's 2012 catalogues.

    The self-styled "sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction," aka Philosophy Football, recently launched the Eton Rifles T- shirt. The song Eton Rifles was cited by David Cameron as one of his favorites, the lines of which include:

    Thought you were clever when you lit the fuse
    Tore down the House of Commons in your brand new shoes

    "Which part of it didn't he get?" Paul Weller responded, "It wasn't intended as a f-ing jolly drinking song for the cadet corps." Weller has since not been awarded a knighthood in the New Years Honors List.

    We have five of the T-shirts to be won in the January competition, with one lucky winner also getting a copy of School Wars, The Rebirth of History, A New Kind Of Bleak and In Defense of The Terror.

    To enter simply answer this question: Eton Rifles was inspired by Eton schoolboys abusing an early 1980s Right to Work March. In the 1930s the Communist Party led a mass movement against unemployment spearheaded by the Hunger Marches. These marches and the direct action that supported them were organised by the NUWM- what did the letters 'NUWM" stand for?

    Email your answer with your full name, address and preferred T-shirt size to admin@philosophyfootball.com. No purchase necessary to enter. Entries close 31 January 2013.

  • Against Patriotism, Against Monarchy - A Reading List

    Are you drowning in deluded celebrations of a reactionary political system, a country facing economic collapse and a sporting spectacle sucking funds from our welfare system?

    Are you disgusted by pleas for everyone to 'pull together in this time of austerity' when the only thing that isn't being cut is the Queen's flotilla?

    After you've torched the street party and hung an effigy of 'our' monarch you may want to read these:

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