Civilized Fictions: Warfare and Civilization in Enlightenment Thought
In range of recent articles, Barry Hindess has explored the intellectual foundations of European perceptions of other peoples as different from and in need of European models of government and society. In particular, he has focused on the European "conceit" of superior, more rapid, and more sophisticated historical development or civilization. In this article, I will take up Hindess' view of European civilization as a conceit, and explore its deployment in relation to the influential idea of civilized war in Enlightenment political thought. In particular, I will trace the articulation of this conceit in Voltaire's account of the battle of Fontenoy on May 11, 1745. I will argue that Voltaire's account of the battle shows that the European notion of civilized war was not only a conceit but a fiction.
Alternatives: Global, Local, Political