This book explores moderation in French political thought during the period 1748–1830 by focusing on a wide range of political, historical, sociological, and philosophical writings related to the French Revolution. Arguing that moderation is the quintessential political virtue, the book discusses two main themes: moderation under the Old Regime, when moderate agendas were used as means of criticizing a rigid and inefficient hierarchical structure and proposing concrete blueprints for political reform; and various attempts at institutionalizing moderation during the revolution and its aftermath, when it was primarily interpreted and used as a means of “ending” the revolution. It suggests that moderation has intrinsic substantive political orientations and values of its own and is related to constitutionalism, a politics of skepticism as opposed to a “politics of faith” and of absolute ends. This prologue provides an overview of the chapters that follow.
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