Tensions of Modernity: Las Casas and His Legacy in the French Enlightenment

Tensions of Modernity: Las Casas and His Legacy in the French Enlightenment

By: Daniel R. Brunstetter (author)Hardback

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Politics today is marked by tension between claims of universal human rights and diversity. From the war on terror to immigration, one of the major challenges facing liberalism is to understand the scope of equality in a world in which certain peoples are perceived to reject and/or violently resist democratic principles. This book revisits Europe's initial encounter with the Native Americans of the New World to shed light on how the West's initial defense of so-called `barbarians' has influenced the way we think about diversity today, and elucidate the arguments of exclusion that unconsciously permeate the moral world we live in. In doing so, Daniel R. Brunstetter traces Bartolome de Las Casas's oft heralded defense of the Native Americans in the sixteenth century through the French Enlightenment. While this defense has been rightly lauded as an early example of human rights discourse, tracing Las Casas's arguments into the eighteenth century shows how his view of equality enabled arguments legitimizing the annihilation by `just' war of those perceived to be `barbarians'. This philosophical narrative can be useful when thinking about concepts such as just war, multiculturalism, and immigration, or any area in which politics confronts radical difference.

About Author

Daniel R. Brunstetter is Assistant Professor in Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. His current research interests include early modern political thought, just war theory, French political thought in the Enlightenment, immigration in France, and narratives of the Silk Road.


1. Introduction: Modernity and the Other: A Story of Inequality 2. Locating the Other in the Political Debates of Early Modernity 3. Thinking and Rethinking the Equality of the Other: Vitoria, Sepulveda and the True Barbarians 4. Las Casas and the Other: The Tension between Equality and Cultural Othercide 5. From the Civilizing Mission to Irreconcilable Alterity: The Changing 6. The Other Side of Modernity: Rationalizing the Transition from Cultural Othercide to Physical Othercide 7. Conclusion: Lessons for the Future - Quo Vadis?

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780415527842
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 212
  • ID: 9780415527842
  • weight: 431
  • ISBN10: 0415527848

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