Tensions of Modernity: Las Casas and His Legacy in the French Enlightenment

1st Edition

Daniel R. Brunstetter

Routledge
Published November 10, 2014
Reference - 212 Pages
ISBN 9781138849013 - CAT# Y176084
Series: Routledge Innovations in Political Theory

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Summary

Politics today is marked by tension between claims of universal human rights and diversity. From the war on terror to immigration, one of the major challenges facing liberalism is to understand the scope of equality in a world in which certain peoples are perceived to reject and/or violently resist democratic principles.

This book revisits Europe’s initial encounter with the Native Americans of the New World to shed light on how the West’s initial defense of so-called ‘barbarians’ has influenced the way we think about diversity today, and elucidate the arguments of exclusion that unconsciously permeate the moral world we live in. In doing so, Daniel R. Brunstetter traces Bartolomé de Las Casas’s oft heralded defense of the Native Americans in the sixteenth century through the French Enlightenment. While this defense has been rightly lauded as an early example of human rights discourse, tracing Las Casas’s arguments into the eighteenth century shows how his view of equality enabled arguments legitimizing the annihilation by ‘just’ war of those perceived to be ‘barbarians’.

This philosophical narrative can be useful when thinking about concepts such as just war, multiculturalism, and immigration, or any area in which politics confronts radical difference.

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