My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Monday, 23 July 2012

A Bourgeois French Revolution?

Was the French Revolution 'bourgeois'? There certainly was no hard division between bourgeois and aristocrat before 1789. By that year, the bourgeoisie owned 25 percent of the land, roughly the same proportion as did the aristocracy. However, there's little doubt that the revolutionaries - and the King's reformers - were consciously seeking to re-cast property rights to the putative advantage of all  property owners. Property rights were to be divested of 'feudal' property obligations. Here's William H. Sewell:

It would be no exaggeration to say that the French Revolution made private property the basic institution of the social and political order … this may be the only respect in which the Revolution still appears unproblematically bourgeois. … The Revolution of 1789 was not made by a distinct and unified bourgeois class. But given the revolutionaries’ extraordinary interest in the rights of private property, perhaps one could argue that it was a revolution for the bourgeoisie, even if it was not the bourgeoisie who guided it.
[William H. Sewell, Jr., ‘Property, Labor, and the Emergence of Socialism in France, 1789 – 1848' in John Merriman (ed), Consciousness and Class Experience in Nineteenth-Century Europe (New York, London: Holmes & Meier, 1979), p. 49.]

Between October 1789 and September 1790, there were no less than five National Assembly proclamations declaring freedom of commerce (though no worked out commercial code).This was not a concerted destruction of landed power, however, but a re-orientation to the market which was already well advanced before 1789. The elites strove to protect their own. Many landlords made up their income from the abolished feudal dues by contracting lease payments from sharecroppers, and they dominated commerce in grain through their direct ownership of substantial demesne farms.

The revolution was supposed to be consensual. But, as François Furet pointed out (Revolutionary France, 1770-1880), when the panacea of commerce failed to work its anticipated magic by dissolving old social antagonisms, recalcitrance in the face of modernity came to be to be re-defined as treacherous deviance and counter-revolutionary perversity. The revolutionaries' Terror of Virtue loomed.

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