in order to understand how the indigenous critique – that consistent moral/intellectual assault on european society, widely voiced by native american observers from 17th cent onwards – evolved, and its full impact on european thinking, we first need to understand something about the role of two mean: loahontan an kandiaronk
in which we explain the demiurgic powers of a r j turgot, and how he turned the indigenous critique of eurpean civilization on its head, laying the basis for most modern views of social evolution (or: how an argument about ‘freedom’ became one about ‘equality)
(if i’m understanding correctly.. just explained that turgot elab’d that beginning of the enlightenment ..breakdown of all societies into four states of development .. was a response to the indigenous critique..?)
everyone was to be sorted along the same grand evolutionary ladder, depending on their primary mode of acquiring dood.. ‘egalitarian’ societies were banished to the bottom of this ladder, where at best they could provide some insight on how our distant ancestors might have lived; but certainly could no longer be imagined as equal parties to a dialogue about how the inhabitants of wealthy/powerful societies should conduct themselves in the preset..
let’s pause for a moment to take stock.. in the yrs between 1703-1751.. the indigenous american critique of european society had an enormous impact on european thought.. what began as widespread expressions of outrage and distaste by americans (when first exposed to european mores) eventually evolved, thru 1000 convos, conducted in dozens of languages, form portuguese to russian, into an argument about the nature of authority, decency, social responsibility and, above all, freedom.. as it became clear to french observers that most indigenous americans saw individual autonomy and freedom of action as consummate values – organizing their own lives in such a sway as to minimize any possibility of one human being becoming subordinated to the will of another and hence viewing french society as essentially one of fractious slaves.. they reacted in a variety of diff ways..
in fact, the indigenous critique of european institution was seen as so powerful that anyone objecting to existing intellectual and social arrangements would tend to deploy it as a weapon of choice: a game, as we’ve seen, played by pretty much everyone of the the great enlightenment philosophers
turgot’s case reveals just how much those particular notions of civilization, evolution and porgress.. which we’ve come to think of as the very core of enlightenment thought.. are in fact.. relative late comers to that critical traditions.. most importantly, is shows how the development of these notions came in direct response to the power of the indigenous critique.. indeed it was to take an enormous effort to salvage that very sense of european superiority which enlightenments thinkers had aimed to upend, unsettle and de centre.. certainly, over the next century and more, such ideas became a remarkably successful strategy for doing so.. but they also created a welter of contradictions..
or ws the indigenous critque correct, and the wealth and power of france simply a perverse side effect of unnatural, even pathological, social arrangements..?