Det orientalske despotis afvikling i Montesquieus Lettres persanes

Knut Ove Eliassen, Anne Fastrup

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7557/4.3234

Keywords

Montesquieu; Persian letters; despotism; bio-politics; population; orientalism

Abstract

Montesquieu’s Dismantlement of Oriental Despotism in Persian Letters.

Montesquieu’s epistolary novel, Persian Letters, is often presented as a satire of the mores of the French under the reign of Louis XIV, and an early example of what became a well-established literary trope: the de-familiarizing perspective of the foreign visitor. Others have emphasized that the novel’s political horizon is best understood by taking into account Montesquieu’s later work, the Spirit of the Laws, and that the Persian letters anticipates insights that were to be more broadly developed in the author’s chef-d’oeuvre. While acknowledging the relevance and productivity of the latter perspective, the claim of the present work is that it is neither the particularities of France under the absolutist regime of Louis the XIV nor the despotism of the sultans and the shahs of the Orient that make up the novel’s central concern, but rather the demonstration of how despotism, by erasing the crucial political distinction between the domestic and public spaces, not only has nefarious consequences for the freedom and liberty of the citizens, but that it, in the final analysis, has a dramatic demographic impact that undermine the wealth and the power of the very nations in which it is the dominant political form.

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License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/