Marquis Nicolas de Condorcet (1743-1794) is one of the fathers of modern democracy. Writing his intellectual testament while hiding from the security police during the French Revolution, Condorcet outlined an optimistic vision of humanity liberated from the yoke of ignorance and political and religious oppression. His vision has in part materialised. Universal suffrage is the norm across the globe, and basic education is considered a human right. On the other hand, negative signs abound. Although the global economy continues to grow, political freedom is now declining. Religious fundamentalism is on the rise, and anti-liberal parties have gained momentum in both new and old democracies.
So what became of Condorcet’s vision? What was the error that he committed when assuming that humanity would more or less automatically liberate itself once the oppressive schemes of the Ancien Régime had been revealed?
The struggle between the modern and the archaic regime is essentially a struggle between political Left and Right. Genuine Enlightenment is politically radical. The purpose of the present book is to show that Enlightenment values such as rationality, democracy and freedom are as brittle as equality. The natural regime in the province of human beings is neither rational nor democratic. The development and defence of the modern regime requires an institution with the capacity of carrying out these tasks – a strong state.
originally published by Svante Weyler Förlag (Sweden) 2017