Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities
2007—2008 Forum on Origins
The Affair or the State: Intellectuals, the Press, and the Dreyfus Affair
The Dreyfus Affair was a catalyst for the political differences that dominated 19th century Europe. For the Dreyfusards the State had to stand as the enforcer of individual rights. Its legitimacy came from a humanitarian tradition dating back to the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The anti-Dreyfusard camp, on the other hand, found its outmost sense of legitimacy in the notion of general interests far and above the individual’s plight for particulars. In this vision the State embodied a higher will concerned with maintaining the integrity and respectability of its institutions. How did these notions of State power and responsibility penetrate the intellectual debates during a politically charged period in French history?