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Det råa tillståndet: Vetenskapsakademien, vildarna och den koloniala världsordningen
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
2017 (Swedish)In: Kritik och beundran: Jean-Jacques Rousseau och Sverige 1750–1850 / [ed] Jennie Nell & Alfred Sjödin, Lund: Ellerströms förlag, 2017, 1, p. 123-146Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

During the 1770’s, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was exposed to harsh criticism in two presidential addresses at the Royal Academy of Sciences, a central intellectual institution in eighteenth-century Sweden. The first was delivered by the chemist and Uppsala professor Torbern Bergman (1735–1784), the second by the natural historian, globetrotter, and Linnaean disciple Anders Sparrman (1748–1820). These attacks related to an anti-Rousseauan and science-friendly stance that was passed down from the Age of Liberty and remained influential in the Gustavian era. In addition, the Academy of Sciences maintained close ties to the powers that be and gravitated towards a traditionalist approach to the social order, factors that ought to have contributed to an unfavourable view of Rousseau. Another and more profound reason for the attacks, however, can be found in the Academy members’ general emphasis on non-rudimentary production and on the divinely ordained duty to refine nature’s bounty. At the heart of this outlook lay the prevalent eighteenth-century dichotomy between that which was man-made and that which was brought forth by nature. When Bergman and Sparrman applied the idea and ideal of refinement to non-European peoples living in simpler circumstances, it directly or indirectly became an argument for European supremacy. Bergman and Sparrman’s reproaches against Rousseau dovetailed neatly with a hierarchical and colonialistic world view, holding that Europeans were superior to the rest of the earth’s inhabitants and entitled to profit from them. Rousseau’s questioning of the sciences and the arts ultimately constituted a threat to the global ranking order reflected and reproduced in the presidential addresses, which, moreover, corresponded to a concrete political reality. A few years into the next decade, in 1784, Sweden obtained the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy from France, the only practical result of Gustav III’s protracted struggle to acquire a territory outside of Europe to benefit his kingdom economically and give it the status of a colonial power.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: Ellerströms förlag, 2017, 1. p. 123-146
Keywords [sv]
Anders Sparrman, Torbern Bergman, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Vetenskapsakademien, 1700-tal
National Category
Humanities and the Arts
Research subject
History of Sciences and Ideas; Economic History; History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-337156ISBN: 9789172475007 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-337156DiVA, id: diva2:1168503
Available from: 2017-12-20 Created: 2017-12-20 Last updated: 2017-12-20

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