Citizens and Cannibals: The French Revolution, the Struggle for Modernity and the Origins of Ideological Terror

Author(s): Eli Sagan


Why did the French Revolution, informed by Enlightenment principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, end in the Great Reign of Terror? How could once moral citizens transform themselves into bloodthirsty "guillotine cannibals" bent on slaughtering their political opponents? For generations, these questions have mystified historians. Until now. In Citizens and Cannibals, noted scholar Eli Sagan argues that France's failed evolution into a modern state introduced to the world a previously unknown scourge with catastrophic consequences: ideological terror. France's passage into social and political modernity held for its citizens both great promise and great anxiety. Sagan analyzes this anxiety and demonstrates why the ensuing ideological terror is common to many societies in transition, including the transformations of Weimar to Nazi Germany, Czarist to Soviet Russia, and agrarian to Communist China. While the French Revolution may have introduced ideological terror to the world, Sagan makes it clear that Hitler, Stalin, and other dictators have perpetuated its existence time after time. In fact, Sagan concludes that the seeds of ideological terror remain present in all modernizing societies, at all times, and if given the proper conditions they will germinate in a very predictable way. As in his previous books, Sagan explores the past to illuminate the political strengths and moral shortcomings of all democratic societies, past, present, and future. With this brilliant new analysis of the French Revolution, he reminds us once again that the past can still teach us a great deal about our modern predicament specifically, why all political progress must come at grave cost. Citizens and Cannibals is a rigorous work of history and profound psychological insight that offers readers the most comprehensive explanation of the great ambiguities and contradictions of the modern world."


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Eli Sagan is the author of several books, most recently The Honey and the Hemlock (Basic Books) and At the Dawn of Tyranny (Knopf). He lives in Englewood, NJ with his wife Frimi.

Chapter 1 Introduction: The Intent of the Book Part 2 The Great Struggle for Modernity Chapter 3 The Triumph of Liberalism: Values, Mores, Mentalites Chapter 4 The Triumph of Liberalism: Institutions Chapter 5 One Revolution or Three? Chapter 6 The Promise of Democratic Citizenship Chapter 7 The Betrayal of the Promise of Democracy Chapter 8 The Mirage of Democratic Citizenship Chapter 9 The Bourgeois Life and Capitalism Chapter 10 The Terrifying Paradox of Individualism Chapter 11 Secular Society, Nationalism, and the Secular Sacred Chapter 12 To Rationalize Society--To Order the World Part 13 The Possible Outcomes of the Struggle for Modernity Chapter 14 Anarchy and the Fear of Anarchy Chapter 15 Riot, Gangsterism, Conservative Dictatorship Chapter 16 Civilian Control of the Military: The Militia and a Citizen Army Part 17 Modernity Psychosis: The Great Terror Chapter 18 Paranoid Panic; Human Sacrifice as Paranoid Revenge; Scapegoats Chapter 19 Enemies Without--Traitors Within; Paranoid Purging and Self-Destruction Chapter 20 The Great Promise and the Great Anxiety of Modernity Chapter 21 The Splitting of the Psyche; The Splitting of the World; The Projection of Uncontaminated Virtue and Absolute Evil Chapter 22 The Flight to Perfection: Utopianism as a Defence against Modernity-Anxiety Chapter 23 Regression to the Borderline Condition: On the Psychology of Ideological Terror Chapter 24 Terror Chapter 25 Robespierre, Virtuous; Robespierre, Paranoid; Robespierre, Narcissist; Robespierre, Dictator; Robespierre, Genius of Moral Critique; Robespierre, Terrorist Part 26 Social Evolution Chapter 27 Why and Where Has God Been Pushing Us? Chapter 28 The Politics of the Impossible: Skipping a Developmental Stage Chapter 29 Notes, Bibliography Chapter 30 Index

General Fields

  • : 9780742508316
  • : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Incorporated
  • : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Incorporated
  • : 1.03873
  • : January 2001
  • : 241mm X 162mm X 41mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Eli Sagan
  • : Hardback
  • : English
  • : 944.04
  • : 630
  • : bibliography, index