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Summary of J. G. A. Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 2: Narratives of Civil Government


J. G. A. Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 2: Narratives of Civil Government (1999)

The second volume of this six-volume set is written to provide an intellectual setting in which Edward Gibbon worked, a matrix of criteria that can be used to measure, in a non-anachronistic way, what Gibbon did and did not choose to undertake in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. John Pocock constructs what he terms the ‘Enlightened narrative’ by reading the historical works of Pietro Giannone, Voltaire, David Hume, William Robertson, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson. The Enlightenment narrative is an eighteenth-century European historiography that relates the ‘Dark Age’ after the collapse of Rome and the rise of commercial, ‘polite’ Europe based on shared manners. It fused civil history into ecclesiastical history inherited from early modern historiography. The eighteenth century saw the emergence of a historiography, termed then and later ‘philosophical’, that proposed a narrative, underpinned by erudition, of ‘human’ history independent of or different from ecclesiastical history. It was a stern denial of ‘fanaticism’; it depicted human progress as one heading towards mœurs, towards ‘Europe’ out of its dark past in ‘Christendom’. Europe was considered to have arisen in the course of a double movement: one from antiquity to the darkness and the other from the darkness to Enlightenment. A system of sovereign territorial states had emerged, and so did a ‘shared civilisation of manners and commerce’. Within this milieu Gibbon took a different path, but not one leading completely out of it. Pocock aims here to deal exclusively with Enlightenment histories that Gibbon knew of but did not entirely follow.

(1) Pietro Giannone (1676-1748)

Giannone’s Istoria civile del regno di Napoli was a history of Naples as a province, in the context of Empire but not itself a history of Empire. Naples was ruled in turn by many foreign monarchs and also, significantly in Giannone’s scheme, by the Pope. The narrative aimed at relating the ‘struggle between the ecclesiastical authority and civil society’. It was a story of ‘papal usurpation’ of civil government, of the way the Roman Church became a formidable power with both heavenly and earthly claims. The narrative was built on historical contingency: it was Giannone’s strategy of exposing the papal hypocrisy of its claims on ‘deposing powers’ by ‘secularising’ the enterprise of the Church, placing its history in the realm of civil history and thereby moving the battle ground to the advantage of ‘civil sovereignty and civil society’.

(2) Voltaire (1694-1778)

Voltaire moved forward from Giannone in that his history was a ‘history of mœurs’ whereas the latter’s history had been a ‘history of law’. In this sense, Voltaire’s histories were representative of ‘what philosophie very often meant’: the substitution of ‘sociability as a totality of ways of living’ for the ‘long struggle between the secular and the spiritual’. Through his histories of kings and mœurs, Voltaire told in a critical yet carefully hopeful way how ‘Enlightenment’ came to be in Europe, and how it expanded geographically to the North and to the East. Voltaire’s history stayed, Pocock claims, within the frame of ‘Enlightenment narrative’ in that it essentially related the successes and failures of kings and courts, or rather of les mœurs, in their escape from ‘Christian barbarism’ and religious fanaticism. But his history was unique in some aspects; it was in part conceived as a means of giving counsel to kings; it was a collection of lessons from the past; it was a project propagating indirectly a Europe of ‘perfected arts’ and ‘enlightened’ absolute monarchs in the models of Louis XIV and Peter the Great. Using the secular history of the Chinese Empire as a counter-example to the Judeo-Christian scheme, Voltaire hammered home his message: Europe followed and surpassed Asia in overcoming religion (Christianity) and rising up to the Enlightenment. For Voltaire the historical narrative was constructed around the axis of conflict between the Church and Roman and post-Roman civil sovereignty; hence his neglect of providing any narrative of Chinese or Turkish ‘history’, if he ever thought there had been one. Also, for Voltaire, the arts were perfected principally in princely courts (the best example being Versailles); even the Dutch Republic with all its doux commerce, he thought, could not be the seat of great fine arts and politesse.

(3) David Hume (1711-1776)

Hume, combining the history of human deeds (profoundly arcane) and that of mœurs (open to ‘philosophical’ investigation), celebrated commercial modernity while remaining deeply worried about its sustainability: the prospect of public debt was threatening to modern monarchies. The chronology of his six-volume History of England ends with the Glorious Revolution, which constitutes ‘the beginnings of that regime of whose continuance he was never certain and became less so as the years passed’. Historiography in Britain differed from that in France in the sense that Britain did not have a definitive centre since it consisted of two distinct national cultures: England and Scotland. However, Hume believed that although Scotland had a history of its own it must be told in the context of the state-building narrative of England out of which ‘his’ monarchical state grew. The English did have their ancient law, but, he argued, it was insufficient to resolve the tension between ‘prerogative’ and ‘privilege’, i.e. between the Crown and the Parliament; it was no more than the best kind of law one could expect to have formed ‘under barbarian and feudal conditions’ of medieval times. And then, as history slowly approached modernity, in between the two poles of tension ran the ‘blazing force of enthusiasm’ that spoke of constitutional liberty in the name of the public. For Hume, the tension dissolved to the Parliament’s favour in 1688, culminating in ‘the most entire system of liberty that ever was known amongst mankind’. With a deep contempt for all religions, Hume drew a picture of law, arts and freedom progressing hand-in-hand over the dead corpse of religious ‘superstition’ and ‘enthusiasm’. But he still found the system of commercial modernity essentially precarious, especially in the face of enormous public debt. By 1776, the year of Hume’s death, Christian disputatiousness and political factions seemed to have survived all along.

(4) William Robertson (1721-1793)

Sharing the ‘cyclical view of history’ with other modern historians, Robertson wrote on the ‘Christian millennium’ much more closely than Hume. He was more consciously a Scottish intellectual, looking at Scotland from the inside. When he put Scotland in a larger picture, he put it in the European, not British, context of the ‘progress of society’. As for Europe, Robertson believed that it had been heading towards a ‘tripolar balance of power’ between Britain, France and Austria and that the threats of ‘universal monarchy’ had been exaggerated. Robertson did not position the church as an ‘independently operating enemy’ but rather considered religious superstition ‘an effect of barbarism in society’. Avoiding theological disputation in the construction of the narrative, Robertson, as a ‘voice of Moderatism’ that endeavoured to reform rather than replace Calvinism, chose not to write the history of the Scottish National Covenant and the Wars of Religion, focusing instead on the rise of the European state system which had arisen from the Christian millennium. Here, by Robertson as by Hume, the medieval history was regarded less as ‘an unrelieved darkness of barbarism and religion’ than ‘a period of recovery and creative preparation’ for modernity. Followed by the fall of the first barbarians who, by Roman conquest, had been ‘civilised’ and thereby slowly deprived of their military virtues, the medieval period that ensued from the invasion of the second barbarians had its turning point in the Crusades; in the course of the zealous campaigns emerged incorporated cities, Estates, commerce and thereby the singularly European road to liberty.

(5) Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Inscribed in a fashion of historical speculation far more ‘secular’ than their predecessors, Scottish Enlightenment thinkers developed a combined form of social and political thinking that stemmed from enquiries of moral philosophy and jurisprudence based on assumptions of (weak or strong) human sociability. Smith was one of the most prominent among them. The unique contribution of Smith’s stadial theory was his assertion that the shepherd stage, though ‘barbarian’, had not been ‘savage’: property, power and state had arisen in that stage. Then, as the view on ‘the progress of society’ became that on ‘the progress of society in Europe’, Smith combined his natural history of society with civil history, arguing that Europe had originally been ‘settled by shepherds and had never passed through the savage state at all’. The ‘Enlightened narrative’ moved into the ‘narrative of Europe as a world empire’: Europe was different from all other civilisations in that its German barbarians, unlike those in other parts of the world, ‘had proved capable of occupying and appropriating land’. Modern Europe’s commercial states were built on the transformation of this agrarian feudalism, ‘employing artisans instead of owning slaves’. Smith’s understanding was that European states had reached a form of modernity that was diametrically different from antiquity.

(6) Adam Ferguson (1723-1816)

Ferguson emphasised human energy, courage and virtue, but in a way quite different from Rousseau: Ferguson upheld ‘heroic and active’, not ‘innocent and inert’, virtues of the savages of ‘le nord’. This active virtue was so important that he feared its demise in the process of the stadial progress of society. For Ferguson, property and administration, safe within the womb of the household, had arisen from the servile role of women in the hunting stage of society. What truly counted was the courage of the hunters and the virtue of the citizenry that pulled together and averted the collapse of modern commercial society of Europe which, presupposed rather than narrated by Ferguson, had grown out of the activities of shepherds who gradually built their world upon agriculture and commerce. Here, individuals should obey the civilised norms of the modern ‘advanced’ societies and do away with ‘the wild independence of the savage or the barbarian’; but Ferguson, unlike Hume and Smith, was more anxious than sanguine about the prospect of liberty in the modern conditions of the division of labour, especially in conditions of standing armies and popular inertia. This was because he believed that commercial societies were prone to the moral corruption of its constituting individuals and thus prone to decline and fall by the loss of their virtues: in this sense, Ferguson was a republican and a neo-classical moralist.

(7) Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)

By the time of the appearance of the first volume of Decline and Fall in 1776, in European historiography ‘religion’ had receded into the background of the narrative of philosophical history of Europe and ‘civil history’ was in full bloom. By this point the ‘barbarians’ were no more the Enlightenment’s ‘other’: they now formed ‘the origin of the self’ of the European civilisation deemed to have surpassed all others on the planet. Gibbon’s project, ‘a history of barbarism and religion’, was rooted in the ‘Enlightenment narrative’ but differed from it. Gibbon accepted its main perspectives and held no reservation about the superiority of his contemporary commercial modernity over ancient slavery or medieval feudalism. But at the same time he differed in temporal and geographical terms: instead of depicting modern Europe’s way out of the Christian millennium, he chose to construct ‘an Enlightened narrative’ of the era preceding that period of ‘barbarism and religion’; and in departing from the history of the city of Rome to that of the Roman Empire, he chose to lead his narrative to the Eastern Empire while abandoning the ecclesiastical Latin history of the remnants of the Western Empire. As for the analysis of decline and fall, Gibbon largely followed the thesis of Roman decay of virtue in tandem with imperial expansion proposed in Montesquieu’s Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence (1734). Gibbon was occupied with the question ‘whether Europe needs to fear another invasion of barbarians from the Eurasian steppe’, as Rousseau had worried. He relied on Voltaire’s argument that Russia and China were ‘reducing the steppe to cultivation and industry’; he believed, moreover, that since Europe had been enlarged by Russia and the Americas it could, like the Chinese empire had done all through its long history, culturally ‘absorb’ the ‘barbarians it could not defeat’.

Thus, in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, the ‘Enlightenment narrative’ that proclaimed the confidence of commercial modernity and of eighteenth-century Europe was, albeit in a different spectrum of time and space, expanded and strengthened in all its plurality.

Summary by Minchul Kim

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혁명과 자본주의 : 케빈 카터의 사진 <독수리와 어린 소녀 (1993)>에 부쳐

유명한 필자들의 글을 읽다보면 비판으로 시작해 비판으로 끝나는 경우가 종종 있다. 큰 그림을 이야기하는 경우일수록 그러하다. 대안 없는 비판도 유의미하지만, 그 사람이 쓴 글이 모조리 그러하다면 더 나아갈 필요가 있다. 대안에 대한 모색과 비판의 정교화는 변증법적으로 함께 이루어져야 한다. "나는 비판만 할테니 대안은 너희가 찾으렴" 같은 태도는 안 된다.
1. <전 세계에서 동시에 사회주의 혁명이 일어나는 일은 없을 것이다>
동시다발적, 전지구적 사회주의 혁명은 불가능하다. 이건 논증의 대상이 아니다. 이건 신앙의 영역이고, 내 판단(신앙)은 "불가능하다"는 것이다. 세계의 지배구조는 1%가 아닌 10% 이상이 지지하고 떠받치기 때문에 그들의 군사력, 경제력, 그리고 정신적 헤게모니를 동시다발적으로 파괴할 수 있는 전망은 보이지 않는다. 핵전쟁이라도 나지 않는 한... 만일 지구상 인간 절반 이상이 죽는 대재앙 없이도 전지구적 사회주의 혁명이 가능하다고 믿는 사람이 있다면, 그 사람에게 아래 2 이하의 글은 글로 보이지도 않을 것이다. 그에게는 이것이 "부르주아의 지배 이데올로기에 오염된" 것으로만 보일 것이다. 그건 어쩔 수 없다. 일단 내 생각의 흐름을 정리해본다.
2. <현 자본주의 사회에 숨어 있는 비참함과 불평등은 정당화될 수 없다>
지금 국제사회가 미디어로부터 최대한 숨겨두는 불평등과 가난의 처참한 현실은, 한 번뿐인 삶을 고통스럽게 살다 죽는 사람들을 둘러싼 종이사다리의 벽은, 여하한 경제이론으로 정당화할 수 없다. 도덕의 영역이고 인류의 실존적 고민의 영역이기 때문이다. 이것이 "정의"의 문제로 치환되든 역사적 유물론의 이론으로 포섭되든 마찬가지다. 정당화될 수 없는 불의가 만연해 있다. 그리고 숨겨져 있다. 사회주의자들의 이론적 비판 지점에도 생각해볼 만한 점이 많다. 왜 20달러짜리 옷은 생산지인 방글라데시에 1달러만이 돌아가고 19달러가 선진국 내…

무엇을 위하여 혁명을 하는가? 시민의 권력에 토대를 둔 공화국을 발명할 수 있는가?

혁명은 시간의 경첩이다. 프랑스혁명은 하나의 ‘사건’으로서, 선형적인 시간 흐름을 끊고, 시계열 자체를 조작하려고 시도했다―“새로운 역법을 만든 것”. 시간은 탈구되었다. 순환(révolution)이었던 것은 더 이상 되돌아오지 않는 역전(révolution)으로 바뀌었다. 그러나 그것은 어디까지나 적실한 개연성 및 상호 관계―“모든 혁명은 독립 전쟁이다”― 속에서 나타나며, 완전히 우발적이지도 완전히 필연적이지도 않다. 공화국은 어디까지나 역사 속에서 발명된 것이며, 그 역사는 하나의 서사로 환원되지 않는다―“혁명은 모든 가능성들의 합계 속에 세워진다”. 정치는 이미 한 가지가 아니라 여러 가지이며, 여러 정치들 사이의 분열 및 불화를 내재화하려는 몸짓들 속에서 형성된다.


이러한 불화, 즉 상상과 현실의 첨예한 화학 작용은 모든 가능성들의 끄트머리에서 가장 절실하게 나타난다. 가장자리, 식민지―“혁명은 끝없이, 가장자리에서, 다시…”. 이 첨단을 시야에 넣지 않고서는 누구도 보편에 대해 말할 권리를 가지지 못한다.진정한 보편성은 가장 소외된 장소, 가장 예외적인 장소에서도 확인될 수 있어야 한다. 그렇지 않으면 보편성은 완전한 차이를 경유한 완전한 차별을 산출할 뿐이다―“인종적 불평등이 법적 불평등을 대체했다”. 투생 루베르튀르가 총을 쥐고서 했던 말은 미처 이루어지지 않을, 영원히 기다려질 보편성의 다소 불길한 전조를 이룬다―“보라, 이것이 우리의 자유다”.


여기서 자유와 총의 등치는 ‘혁명은 곧 폭력’이라는 진부한 공식처럼 보인다. 혁명은 종종 악마화되지만 그 자체로 폭력적인 혁명은 없다―“‘민주주의의 병리학’ … ‘공포정치’가 만약 그런 것이라면, 그것은 아예 존재했던 적조차 없다”. 구태여 말하자면 혁명을 위한 폭력만이 있다. 혁명은 시민을 발명했고, 시민 권력을 토대 삼아 공화국을 발명했다. 그리고 바로 이 공화국의 법은 폭력을 최대한 주변화했다―“자유 국가에서 군부 권력은 가장 제약받아야 한다”. 폭력을 수반한 혁명의 억압은 폭력성의 현현이기보다…

루소의 <사회계약론>에 대한 스미스의 한 마디

포자드생퐁(Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond)이라는 프랑스 광물학자(암석학자?)가 1797년에 2권짜리 <잉글랜드, 스코틀랜드, 헤브리디스 제도 여행기(Voyage en Angleterre, en Ecosse et aux îles Hébrides, ayant pour objet les sciences, les arts, l'histoire naturelle et les moeurs)>를 출판했다.


책 표지에 "뉴캐슬, 더비셔, 에든버러, 글래스고, 퍼스, 세인트앤드루스 등"의 암석과 광물에 대한 묘사를 담고 있다고 광고하는, 지금 기준으로 보면 희한한 책이지만 온갖 과학에 대한 당시 독자층의 높은 관심도를 보여주는 부제이기도 하다.

어쨌거나 포자드생퐁이 이 책에 쓴 바에 따르면, 그는 애덤 스미스(Adam Smith)를 만나서 루소(Jean-Jacques Rousseau)에 대한 대화를 나눴는데, 스미스가 이렇게 말했다는 것이다.

"세월이 흐르면 <사회계약론(Du contrat social)>은 그 저자[루소]가 당한 숱한 박해를 모두 갚고도 남을 것입니다."

밑거나 말거나다. 그랬단다.