Reclaiming the Enlightenment

Toward a Politics of Radical Engagement

Stephen Eric Bronner

Columbia University Press

Reclaiming the Enlightenment

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Pub Date: May 2006

ISBN: 9780231126090

224 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£26.95

Pub Date: September 2004

ISBN: 9780231126083

224 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£79.95

Pub Date: September 2004

ISBN: 9780231500982

224 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£26.95

Reclaiming the Enlightenment

Toward a Politics of Radical Engagement

Stephen Eric Bronner

Columbia University Press

This book tackles an obvious yet profound problem of modern political life: the disorientation of intellectuals and activists on the left. As the study of political history and theory has been usurped by cultural criticism, a confusion over the origins and objectives of progressive politics has been the result. Specifically, it has become fashionable for intellectuals to attack the Enlightenment for its imperialism, eurocentrism, and scientism, and for the sexism and racism of some of its major representatives. Although the fact that individual thinkers harbored such prejudices is irrefutable, Stephen Bronner argues that reducing the Enlightenment ethos to these beliefs is wholly unsustainable.

With its championing of democracy, equality, cosmopolitanism, and reason—and its vociferous attacks on popular prejudice, religious superstition, and arbitrary abuses of power—the Enlightenment was once hailed as the foundation of all modern, progressive politics. But in 1947, this perspective was dramatically undermined when Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno published their classic work, Dialectic of Enlightenment, which claims that the Enlightenment was the source of totalitarianism and the worst excesses of modernity. Reclaiming the Enlightenment from purely philosophical and cultural interpretations, Bronner shows that its notion of political engagement keeps democracy fresh and alive by providing a practical foundation for fostering institutional accountability, opposing infringements on individual rights, instilling an enduring commitment to social reform, and building a cosmopolitan sensibility. This forceful and timely reinterpretation of the Enlightenment and its powerful influence on contemporary political life is a resounding wake-up call to critics on both the left and the right.
Stephen Bronner has written a much-needed and never-completed sequel to Adorno and Horkheimer's classic Dialectic of Enlightenment. His powerful defense of political liberty, social justice, and cosmopolitanism is the best extension of the Enlightenment legacy we have. His challenge to one-eyed rationalists, all-or-nothing romantics, and self-pitying nihilists is powerful and persuasive. Cornel West
An important call to recover our Enlightenment roots in an agae characterized by a loss of reason and rational discourse. Recommended. Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Library Journal
Simultaneously a scholarly study and an impassioned manifesto, this masterful book by Bronner responds to the left-wing critique of the Enlightenment. Choice
Stephen Bronner offers a persuasive 'rehabilitation' of the Enlightenment in which he argues forcefully that despite the demolition of reason by left 'dialectical' critics, the Age of Reason remains a valuable source of progressive thinking and radical insights. An important work for students and scholars as well as for political practitioners. Benjamin R. Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld and Fear's Empire
Stephen Bronner's study of the Enlightenment and its reception is not only superb but timely. Bronner rescues the Enlightenment from critics of both the left and the right. In the future, anyone who wants to defend arguments about ethical reason or scientific knowledge based on local prejudices will have to deal with Bronner's decisive arguments. Philip Green, author of Equality and Democracy
Stephen Bronner shows how today's Left has impoverished, even poisoned itself by sliding unawares into the language and imagery of the European Counter-Enlightenment, the movement against 1776 and 1789. But he also shows us how the not-quite-lost language of the Enlightenment can be our Magic Flute, if we just have the courage to grasp it and play our own variations on its themes. Marshall Berman, author of All that is Solid Melts Into Air
Reclaiming the Enlightenment is a vigorous and thought-provoking book. Sankar Muthu, Perspectives of Politics
Interpreting the Enlightenment: Metaphysics, Tradition, and Politics
In Praise of Progress
Inventing Liberalism
The Great Divide: Enlightenment, Counter-Enlightenment, and the Public Sphere
Abolishing the Ghetto: Anti-Semitism, Racism, and the Other
The Illusory Dialectic: From Enlightenment to Totalitarianism
Experiencing Reality: The Culture Industry, Subjectivity, and Identity
Pathways to Freedom: Rights, Reciprocity, and the Cosmopolitan Sensibility
Renewing the Legacy: Renewing the Legacy

About the Author

Stephen Eric Bronner is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and director of civic diplomacy and human rights at the Institute for World Challenges, Rutgers University. He is the senior editor of Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture and the author of many books, including Imagining the Possible: Radical Politics for Conservative Times; Of Critical Theory and Its Theorists; and Socialism Unbound.