The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society

From the publisher:

In this acclaimed exploration of the search for ‘authentic’ individual identity, Marshall Berman explores the historical experiences and needs out of which this new radicalism arose. Focussing on eighteenth-century Paris, a time and place in which a distinctively modern form of society was just coming into its own, Berman shows how the ideal of authenticity – of a self that could organize the individual’s energy and direct it toward his own happiness – articulated eighteenth-century man’s deepest responses to this brave new world, and his most ardent hope for a new life in it. Exploring in particular the ideas of Montesquieu and Rousseau, Berman shows how the ideal of authenticity was radically opposed to the bourgeois, capitalistic idea of ‘self-interest’.

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