Conclusion Legacies of the Terror

in The Terror of Natural Right

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226184388
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226184401 | DOI:
Conclusion Legacies of the Terror

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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Natural right played a critical role in allowing the French Revolution to occur at all. The “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” famously enshrined natural law principles. But the revolutionaries also had other discourses at their disposal, most notably theories of popular sovereignty, legal voluntarism, and constitutional monarchy. It was only with the fall of the monarchy in August 1792, and then more particularly with the trial of Louis XVI, that natural right became regarded as the enforceable legal code of the Revolution. The danger that unmediated natural right presents to civil society resides in its radical concept of hostility, which is summed up in the phrase hostis humani generis (“enemy of the human race”). It is misleading to describe the relation between war and the Terror, or war and Jacobin republicanism, as the progressive imposition of a military logic onto civilian affairs. This chapter discusses the continuity between the Terror and subsequent revolutionary movements worldwide, including totalitarianism.

Keywords: natural right; Terror; French Revolution; hostility; hostis humani generis; republicanism; revolutionary movements; totalitarianism; war

Chapter.  8945 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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