Blanqui and Political Will

Blanqui and Political Will - AHRC, 2015–2017

  • AHRC Research Leadership Fellowship: Professor Peter Hallward
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Philippe Le Goff

Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) was perhaps the single most important figure in nineteenth-century French revolutionary politics, and he played a role in all of the great upheavals that punctuated his life (1830, 1848 and 1870–71). He was certainly the most forceful and controversial of those who sought to renew and then to transform the radical Jacobin tradition that drew its inspiration from Rousseau's conception of 'a free society of equals', a society sustained by collective participation in a general will to posit, debate and accomplish goals consistent with the common good. At odds with followers of Proudhon on the one hand and of Marx on the other, while Blanqui commanded unrivalled authority in French revolutionary circles during parts of his own lifetime he was quickly forgotten after his death, and there has been little searching engagement with his work or legacy since the middle of the twentieth century.

This 18-month AHRC-funded project will deliver a new, archive-based assessment of Blanqui's political thought. It aims both to fill a symptomatic gap in the recent history of political ideas and to buttress a wider intervention in ongoing debates about the status of the political subject or actor, understood as a conscious, deliberate agent capable of decisive action. More than any of his contemporaries, Blanqui insisted on the relative primacy of the actors' own initiative and determination, and on their variable capacity to overcome the many obstacles that might block the realisation of their collective purpose. Reassessment of Blanqui's legacy offers an opportunity to reconsider this broadly 'psycho-political' dimension of political action, a dimension dismissed or neglected by many of today's most influential critical theorists and European philosophers.

As well as enable reflection on this general theoretical question, the project will produce a website with reproductions of all Blanqui's published works and a complete set of scans of his manuscripts held by the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, a substantial English-language anthology, two conferences, a volume of essays on his legacy, and a monograph on his political philosophy.

Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP)Arts and Humanities Research Council