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Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment$
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Laurence Brockliss and Ritchie Robertson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198783930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198783930.001.0001

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Isaiah Berlin and the Origins of the ‘Totalitarian’ Rousseau

Isaiah Berlin and the Origins of the ‘Totalitarian’ Rousseau

(p.89) 6 Isaiah Berlin and the Origins of the ‘Totalitarian’ Rousseau
Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment

Christopher Brooke

Oxford University Press

Over three decades, Isaiah Berlin repeatedly returned to the problem of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s influence on Romanticism, without ever dealing with it to his satisfaction. Berlin clearly disliked Rousseau intensely, but felt it impossible to ignore him. Why? In this chapter the sources of Berlin’s distinctive engagement with Rousseau, which reached its high tide in 1952, are explored. It pays particular attention to the general view of the Enlightenment that Berlin absorbed from his 1930s encounter with Plekhanov, as well as to the philosophical backlash against idealism, Harold Laski, Irving Babbitt’s work on Rousseau, and Berlin’s post-war friendship with J. L. Talmon.

Keywords:   Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Irving Babbitt, Harold Laski, totalitarian democracy, Jacob Talmon

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