Revolution and Restart of the Enlightenment

Revolution and Restart of the Enlightenment






Starting with 17-18th European countries, the Enlightenment was generally acknowledged as the flowering of modernity in world history. This intellectual movement swept away ignorance and superstition in human intellectual world and social life, launched dramatic revolution in social institutions and political orders, ushered in new notions and ideals that help people to perceive the world and humanity itself differently, and inspired new possibilities of human life. Since the end of the nineteen century, enlightenment, salvation, revolution and reformation had made up different themes in the process of Chinese modernity. The New Cultural Movement at the beginning of twentieth century culminated historically in Chinese version enlightenment, and led up to a political upheaval of modern Chinese revolution as well as a powerful spur to China��s modernization. It seems that the enlightenment always brings about profound social and political revolution. But the connotation embedded in the themes and missions of the enlightenment comes more than just that. A full comprehension of the enlightenment requires a further look into its relationships with revolution and rationality, and its generality and individuality, and its relationships with ideology, etc. The Enlightenment in different countries at different periods of time bears both similarity and diversity. And the Enlightenment grows and strengthens itself via struggle with dominant ideology. However, the two may gradually converge in their views with the progress of the Enlightenment and the development of individual rationality. Thus, a comprehensive and pluralistic view should be adopted when it comes to the comprehension of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is undoubtedly a part of modern history, but its peculiarities distinguish itself from rest of this history. In the same way, Chinese enlightenment is an important part of the world enlightenment while holding its unique mission. Thus, a comprehensive, objective and fair appraisal on Chinese enlightenment is required and any prejudice should be avoided. Lessons and experiences from Chinese and western enlightenments are mutually beneficial. Thus, the Chinese enlightenment should be investigated against the backdrop of the human civil history as a whole. At the end of nineteenth century, Chinese people perceived modernity, enlightenment and revolution negatively. But in contemporary China, when revolution has accomplished its historical mission, enlightenment , however, will continue to guide the on-going reform. For the sake of its success, a new enlightenment movement needs to start again. And this is the exact reason why we now need to reconsider the relationship between enlightenment and revolution.


1.College of Public Affairs, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China; 2.School of Marxism, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310028, China

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