On Human Diversity: Nationalism, Racism, and Exoticism in French Thought

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On Human Diversity: Nationalism, Racism, and Exoticism in French Thought

By Tzvetan Todorov
Harvard University Press, 1993
440 pp. $49.95
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A leading European intellectual analyzes French thought on the multiplicity of peoples, customs and values. He traces the distortions of the humanism of Montaigne and of eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinking in subsequent writers, treating their ideas in excessive isolation. The great protagonists are Montesquieu and Rousseau. Toderov, who himself experienced great transitions--from insufferable life under communism to working among French scholars--hopes that this inquiry will help the present generation attain a critical humanism, an appreciation of diversity without the simplicities of relativism.