Tag Archives: Human rights

Graduate Student, Glauco Schettini, publishes in the Journal of Modern Intellectual History

Glauco Schettini’s article, “Confessional Modernity: Nicola Spedalieri, the Catholic Church and the French Revolution, c.1775-1800,” published in Modern Intellectual History (Cambridge University Press), reconsiders the Catholic reaction to the French Revolution and more broadly to the emergence of what we usually term “modernity.”

The article focuses on Nicola Spedalieri’s On the Rights of Man (1791) and on the debate that its publication sparked in Italy and beyond. The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the polarization of public opinion between the supporters of the new regime and its relentless opponents convinced Spedalieri (1740-95), a well-reputed Catholic theologian, of the need to find a via media between these two extremes. Assuming the re-Christianization of the postrevolutionary world as his goal, Spedalieri argued that some aspects of revolutionary political culture (representative institutions, the idea of a social contract, the notion of human rights) were acceptable from a Catholic standpoint as long as the revolutionaries, in turn, agreed to abandon secularization and to uphold the traditional confessional organization of the state, recognizing Catholicism as the official state religion. It was not modernity itself, Spedalieri claimed, that should be rejected, but secularization, for a different modernity from that conceived by the revolutionaries was possible—a confessional modernity, combining revolutionary politics and confessional states. Far from gaining immediate acceptance, Spedalieri’s ideas were harshly criticized during the 1790s and then set aside by the triumph of reactionary Catholicism during the Restoration. However, they resurfaced later in the nineteenth century and ultimately played a decisive role in the development of the church’s attitudes toward modern culture, for they carved a path for Catholics to fight secularization from within and to reshape modernity accordingly.A free online version of the article is available here.


Glauco Schettini (Ph.D. Student at Fordham University)

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History Hosts Samuel Moyn for Human Rights Discussion at Lincoln Center

the_last_utopia_by_samuel_moyn-460x307More than 150 students gathered on November 30, 2016, to have a conversation about the place of human rights in post World War II world with the world’s leading scholar on the subject — professor Samuel Moyn The Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law and Professor of History at Harvard University.  Moyn did not lecture.  After briefly telling the students what drew him to study human rights he engaged them in a dialogue in which our own undergraduates distinguished themselves and our university by asking nuanced sophisticated questions that demonstrated both mastery of Moyn’s work, which they read in preparation for the visit, and command of world’s affair.

moynThe event with the students was followed by a dinner discussion with professor Moyn in which diverse faculty from different departments and both campuses discussed the fundamental challenges of human rights policy and diplomacy such as the articulation of human rights, the distinctions between human rights, civil rights, and social and economic rights, the place of the nation state in promoting and protecting human rights, and the pitfalls of humanitarian intervention. (thanks to Doron Ben Atar for this blog post)

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