Poisoning the Minds of the Lower Orders

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Princeton University Press, Aug 6, 2000 - History - 560 pages

Conservatism was born as an anguished attack on democracy. So argues Don Herzog in this arrestingly detailed exploration of England's responses to the French Revolution. Poisoning the Minds of the Lower Orders ushers the reader into the politically lurid world of Regency England.


Deftly weaving social and intellectual history, Herzog brings to life the social practices of the Enlightenment. In circulating libraries and Sunday schools, deferential subjects developed an avid taste for reading; in coffeehouses, alehouses, and debating societies, they boldly dared to argue about politics. Such conservatives as Edmund Burke gaped with horror, fearing that what radicals applauded as the rise of rationality was really popular stupidity or worse. Subjects, insisted conservatives, ought to defer to tradition--and be comforted by illusions.


Urging that abstract political theories are manifest in everyday life, Herzog unflinchingly explores the unsavory emotions that maintained and threatened social hierarchy. Conservatives dished out an unrelenting diet of contempt. But Herzog refuses to pretend that the day's radicals were saints. Radicals, he shows, invested in contempt as enthusiastically as did conservatives. Hairdressers became newly contemptible, even a cultural obsession. Women, workers, Jews, and blacks were all abused by their presumed superiors. Yet some of the lowly subjects Burke had the temerity to brand a swinish multitude fought back.


How were England's humble subjects transformed into proud citizens? And just how successful was the transformation? At once history and political theory, absorbing and disquieting, Poisoning the Minds of the Lower Orders challenges our own commitments to and anxieties about democracy.

 

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Poisoning the minds of the lower orders

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Herzog (law and political theory, Univ. of Michigan) gives a detailed account and analysis of conservative political and social thought in Great Britain from 1789, the year of the French Revolution ... Read full review

Contents

A Conservative Inheritance
13
Of Coffeehouses and Schoolmasters
50
Poison and Antidote
89
The Politics of Reason
140
CONTEMPT
191
The Politics of the Emotions
202
A Guide to the Menagerie Women and Workers
244
A Guide to the Menagerie Blacks and Jews
283
Self and Other
324
Faces in the Mirror
363
STANDING
403
Wollstonecrafts Hair
414
The Trouble with Hairdressers
455
The Fate of a Trope
505
INDEX
547
Copyright

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About the author (2000)

Don Herzog teaches law and political theory at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Without Foundations and Happy Slaves.

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