Michael Sonenscher

Michael Sonenscher
Résidents Labex RFIEA+
pas Eurias

dates de séjour

15/09/2014 - 15/07/2015


Histoire des idées
Histoire moderne

Fonction d’origine

Directeur d'études

Institution d’origine

King's College, Cambridge (Royaume-Uni)

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

The Ancients, the Modern and the Political Ideologies of Modernity

The aim of this proposal is to re-examine the content of modern political ideologies by placing them in the context of the celebrated “quarrel” between the ancients and the moderns of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  The argument itself is usually said to have begun in France in the late seventeenth century and continued into the early nineteenth century, with Benjamin Constant’s famous 1819 lecture on ancient and modern liberty forming one kind of climacteric.  In an immediate sense, it was a clash between different evaluations of the ancient and modern worlds.  In a more extended sense, however, it was a multifaceted argument about the properties of human nature, the mechanisms of human association and the content and direction of human history because all these subjects had a bearing on the further subject of identifying and evaluating what was innate or acquired in human culture.  In this more extended sense, the question of the relationship between the ancients and the moderns supplied much of the subject matter of the various ways of thinking about history and politics that, in the first half of the nineteenth century, came to be known as “liberalism”, “nationalism”, “socialism”, “communism” or “conservatism”.  The aim of the research envisaged in this project is to reconstruct the several overlapping sequences of moves involved in these outcomes and, by doing so, to describe the historical origins of modernity’s major political ideologies.


Michael Sonenscher enseigne à King’s College, Cambridge, UK. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs livres sur l’histoire de la France, notamment Work and Wages: Natural Law, Politics and the Eighteenth-Century French Trades, et sur l’histoire des idées économiques et politiques en France au 18e siècle, notamment Before the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution et Sans-Culottes: An Eighteenth-Century Emblem in the French Revolution. Il travaille actuellement sur les idées politiques, économiques et morales de Germaine de Staël et, plus largement, le Groupe de Coppet au 19e siècle.