Hanan Yoran, Ben Gurion University


Civic Humanism, Modernity and Ideology


11 January 2007


The paper revisits the question of the modernity of the Renaissance by examining the political language of Florentine civic humanism and by critically analyzing the debate over Hans Baronís interpretation of the movement. It engages two debates that are usually conducted separately: one concerning the originality of civic humanism in comparison to medieval thought; and the other concerning the political and social function of the civic humanistsí political republicanism in fifteenth-century Florence. My main contention is that humanist political discourse divorced the perception of reality from the metaphysical and divine order of things, and thus undermined the traditional justifications for political hierarchies and power relations. This created the conditions of possibility for the distinctively modern aspiration for a social and political order based on liberty and equality. It also resulted in the birth of a distinctively modern form of ideology, one that legitimizes the social order by disguising its inequalities and structures of domination. Humanism, like modern political thought generally, thus simultaneously constructs and reflects the dialectic of emancipation and domination so central to modernity itself.


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