Page 7 - spring21
P. 7

Metternich did not see himself as defending the pre-1789 ancien regime of

            oppression and privilege, but civilisation itself. Like Burke in England, his revulsion
            from the French Revolution stimulated him to forge a new conservative philosophy
            out of progressive, Enlightened principles. Metternich was as much a creation of the
            Revolutionary era as the liberals and nationalists he tried to crush.

            Metternich’s nemesis: Mazzini, prophet of nationalism
            Giuseppe Mazzini was an enigmatic figure, an Italian politician, journalist and
            revolutionary activist (“conspirator” to his many enemies), born in Genoa in 1805 (it

            was then ruled by Napoleon), the son of a university professor. He was the
            inspiration behind the Risorgimento, the broad 19  century movement to free the
            disparate Italian states from foreign domination (particularly Austrian) and unite it as
            an independent nation, a free, democratic republic. Mazzini was personally very
            attractive and charismatic; people called him “the most beautiful being, male or
            female”, they’d ever seen. Forced to leave Italy for his revolutionary beliefs, he
            eventually settled in London and became a celebrity in Victorian society, helped by a

            wave of support when it was revealed that the British government was intercepting
            and reading his correspondence. To his contemporaries, Mazzini was the
            embodiment of European nationalism in the first half of the 19  century.

            Rousseau and the birth of the inner life
            Metternich was trying to buttress the old, traditional, pre-1789 sources of legitimacy,
            namely monarchy, church and aristocracy. But Mazzini set against these a new form
            of legitimacy, namely one derived from the inner life of the individual*.

            *Francis Fukuyama Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition (2018)

            Where did this originate? Not with Mazzini, nor even the French Revolution, but with
            the 18  century thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau (died 1778). Rousseau is a difficult
            figure because his ideas embrace both the Enlightenment and Romanticism. He did
            not originate the idea of an inner life, but previously it had always been articulated in

            Christian terms, as in the writings of St Augustine in the 4th Century and Martin
            Luther in the 16th, describing their personal religious turmoil and anguish.

            Rousseau was the first western thinker to articulate the inner life in secular terms. In
            doing so, in one of the most pivotal moments in western intellectual history, he
            swept aside the fundamental Christian belief in Original Sin. This said that evil was

            God’s punishment for our sins. Rousseau declared that individual human beings were
            innately good. Evil did not originate within each person, due to Original Sin, but in
            society. It was social life that created rivalries and resentments.
   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12