Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Universal Emancipation: The Haitian Revolution and the Radical Enlightenment

Unlike the American and French Revolutions, the Haitian Revolution was the first in a modern state to implement human rights universally and unconditionally. Going well beyond the selective emancipation of white adult male property owners, the Haitian Revolution is of vital importance, Nick Nesbitt argues, in thinking today about the urgent problems of social justice, human rights, imperialism, torture, and, above all, human freedom.

Combining archival research, political philosophy, and intellectual history, Nesbitt explores this fundamental event of modern history--the invention of universal emancipation--both in the context of the Age of Enlightenment (Spinoza, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel) and in relation to certain key figures (Rancière, Laclau, Habermas) and trends (such as the turn to ethics, human rights, and universalism) in contemporary political philosophy. In doing so, he elucidates the theoretical implications of Haiti's revolution both for the eighteenth century and for the twenty-first century. Universal Emancipation will be of interest not only to scholars and students of the Haitian Revolution and postcolonial francophone studies but also to readers interested in critical theory and its relation to history and political science.

Universal Emancipation elevates the Haitian Revolution to its proper place in the pantheon of modern revolutions, beside or even above the French and American Revolutions, as a world historical event. Nesbitt argues that by challenging the assumptions of racial hierarchy, the Haitian Revolution extends and completes the primary lines of the European philosophical tradition, making concrete its abstract notions of freedom, equality, and universality. -- Michael Hardt, coauthor of Empire and Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire