On Manichean Histories of Europe

This persistent closed-mindedness—the insistence that any and every text and phenomenon be read back into one grand Manichean narrative—is not a problem unique to Gregory: indeed, the work that his resembles more than any other is Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment, a clarion call for a robust secularity. Both of these books were written by venerable, erudite early modern scholars, convinced that the die of modernity were cast somewhere around 1650. They are both inordinately long—some of the longest nonfiction works published for mass consumption in the last few years. They are both obsessed with Spinoza. And both authors adopt the pose of a Cassandra, howling obvious truths into a world too blinkered by its iPhones to understand. Their great length, and unending cascade of details, stands in for a paucity of theoretical complexity. For both of them, the story itself is extremely simple: in the seventeenth century, there was a grand parting of the ways, and ever since then the children of light have been combating the children of darkness. Israel and Gregory are two sides of the same coin—and stamped on that coin we find the mark of a king.

"An Intended Absence? Democracy and the Unintended Reformation," -  http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/?p=38996