The Idea of Civilization in Lamartine's Entretiens on Rousseau's Contrat Social

The protracted series of entretiens devoted to Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the Cours familier de littérature discloses a noticeable evolution in the social philosophy of Lamartine as a result of the political fiasco of 1848. Evidence underlines the fact that prior to 1848, Lamartine entered willingly into a spiritual alliance with Fénelon and Rousseau – two writers whose political utopianism he would later disparage with relentless determination in the Cours familier de littérature. By his own admission, Lamartine gauged his initial reactions to the writings of Fénelon and Rousseau by attitudes they imparted that corresponded to his own predispositions. But his social philosophy after 1848 reflects an overriding concern with the question of practical morality. The lesson of recent events had underscored a peril wrought from an unfounded idealism and a reckless utopianism. In 1861 Lamartine departed radically from his previous unqualified endorsement of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Lamartine's forceful rejection of the radical idealism of Rousseau underscores the significant effort he made to advocate an ideological compromise with the political status quo of the 1860s. (RTD)

Denommé, Robert T
Volume 1986-1987 Fall-Winter; 15(1-2): 33-45.