In an age when it has become fashionable to dismiss the Enlightenment as a sinister movement based on instrumental rationality, Benjamin Redekop delves deeper to understand the movement on its own terms. In Enlightenment and Community he shows that the Enlightenment was a diverse, reformist enterprise with strong communitarian elements. Redekop examines the writings of G.E. Lessing, Thomas Abbt, and J.G. Herder - three seminal figures of the German Enlightenment - in their social and intellectual context, showing that their focus was the same issue that occupied many in Germany who ascribed to Enlightenment ideals: how to shape an enlightened "public" out of a diverse, fragmented, and "unenlightened" society.
Jürgen Habermas' pioneering work has provoked intense discussion about the rise of a modern public sphere and civil society. Redekop revises and expands the Habermasian thesis by demonstrating that, rather than being particularly "bourgeois," the eighteenth-century German public was a problematic, amorphous entity that was not based on a single social grouping - a beckoning figure that led Lessing, Abbt, and Herder on unique but comparable quests to give it shape and form. His perspective provides an important new understanding of the work of authors who have often been placed in overly narrow and restrictive categories.