Clifford Siskin’s new monograph continues the project begun in his earlier collection This Is Enlightenment (2010), coedited with William B. Warner. The aim of System is to tell a history of Enlightenment thought focusing less on ideas or thinkers than on the media created to enable thought. Well-known figures like Galileo, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Malthus make extended appearances. But they remain at the periphery, as Siskin spotlights the instruments they developed: written genres like the theory, the history, the essay, the inquiry, the treatise, and, above all, the system. The book might therefore be compared with recent works like John Bender and Michael Marrinan’s Culture of Diagram (2010) or Peter de Bolla’s Architecture of Concepts (2013), which similarly explore the infrastructure of Enlightenment thought. For this reason System is well placed in MIT Press’s distinguished...

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