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Review: Müntzer contre Luther. Le droit divin contre l'absolutisme princier by Marianne Schaub

François Laruelle, trans. Sylvia

from: Revue de Synthèse, IVe S., No. 2 (April-June 1987), p. 289

Marianne SCHAUB, Müntzer contre Luther. Le droit divin contre l'absolutisme princier. Paris, À l'enseigne de l'arbre verdoyant, 1984. 13.6 x 21.4, 399 p.

            German, and partially European, modernity owes a lot to the Reformation and what its historical heritage has done: the exigency, definition, and limitation of new liberties that were claimed at the decline of the Holy Roman Empire. On this known theme, almost a topos, Marianne Schaub’s book brings historical, political, economic, religious, and philosophical information with a precision and variety that should renew interest in the theme with historians of philosophy and call, finally, the attention of French philosophers, particularly those that would be interested in utopia and messianism, in these conflicts and their “stakes”. The Author does not proceed with historico-religious generalities but seizes these overdetermined conflicts at the point of effervescence where they are concentrated: the famous Müntzer-Luther conflict of which we can follow the formation, adventures, and denouements in detail on the economic and religious, social and philosophical planes. And, in the background, “the constitution of a philosophical modernity proper to Germany” but which should no longer leave French thought insensible. We know the list of these liberties that have become fundamental and the conceptual content of which was elaborated in these conflicts: intellectual liberty; Christian liberty and the laicization of priesthood; the German nation’s liberty; the liberty of baptism; popular liberty; etc. On all of these points, both successive and tangled, M. Schaub shows the work of the concept, its economic, religious, and political mise en scène, its issue within a national culture destined to remain contrasted and fragile. This book is not content with rendering Müntzer “unavoidable” to a reflection on philosophy and its possible rapports to messianism; neither with showing how much his conflict with Luther became more than a “school problem”, an indefinitely analyzed symptom, for the thought and history of the 19th century in Germany. It is also an instrument of work: it contains Müntzer’s essential texts, translated and annotated, historical documents touching the Peasant War; Luther’s celebrated pamphlet against the “hordes of looters”, etc.; finally, a very important bibliography.

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