- Verval, deugd en Nederlandse eigenheid. Karakter als politiek-antropologische categorie in de achttiende eeuw
- De achttiende eeuw
- Volume | Issue number
- 39 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
In the course of the eighteenth century ‘national character’ became a central concept in the Dutch public debate. This reflects the growth of a Dutch national identity, transcending regional identities and defined in contrast with the perceived traits of surrounding European peoples. This article, how-ever, does not focus on the content given to the term ‘national character’, or on the specific nature of the traits that the Dutch ascribed to themselves. Instead, attention is paid to more structural aspects of the discussions on national character in the eighteenth-century Netherlands. On the one hand, these discussions should be regarded as part of a more general discourse on character comprising a wide range of psychological and anthropological knowledge. In this discourse characters were primarily regarded as transparent types that could be described by enumerating a limited number of distinctive traits. Furthermore, this early modern configuration of human science had an important moral dimension: the description of characters was never strictly separated from their evaluation. In the second place, the Dutch debate on national character should be connected with the eighteenth-century discussion on republicanism, in which classical conceptions of civic virtue competed with more modern notions of civility and politeness that emphasised the cultural dimension of citizenship.
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