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The Truth in Hell: Maurice Joly on Modern Despotism

Hans Speier
Polity
Vol. 10, No. 1 (Autumn, 1977), pp. 18-32
DOI: 10.2307/3234235
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3234235
Page Count: 15
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The Truth in Hell: Maurice Joly on Modern Despotism
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Abstract

Political crises have often generated, through overt or disguised polemics, incisive theoretical analyses of political concepts and institutions. Such works, irrespective of their merit, have usually receded into oblivion once the crisis passed. Maurice Joly's Dialogue in Hell, written as an attack on the dictatorship of Napoleon III, was no exception despite the startling foresight it contains in anticipating political developments in twentieth-century mass society. Ironically, it was the ideas which were the targets of Joly's attack that were preserved and adapted to ends he would have found utterly repulsive in the outrageous antisemitic forgery under the title of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Speier provides an analysis of the prophetic political insights of Joly's essay and retraces the circumstances of the falsification of his ideas in the Protocols.

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