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.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Wherein I say what Say Said about the Middling Classes

Part of my argument in Bourgeois Liberty ... is that Liberals and such applauded the bourgeoisie for its very particular attributes. In contrast to the working classes, the bourgeoisie had the time and energy to develop political rationality. But unlike the aristocracy they disavowed ambition to batten upon the state, because unlike courtiers and gentry etc. they did not rely for their living on politiking. The bourgeoisie, thus, provided an ideal support base for rational government: they would support the political executive without trying to take it over.

Here is Jean Baptiste Say making the point in his Traité d'économie politique - discours préliminaire (1814 edition):

For a long time it was thought that the science of political economy could only possibly be useful to the very limited number of persons engaged in the administration of public affairs. It is undoubtedly of importance that men in public life should be more enlightened than others ... But, is it possible for princes and ministers to be enlightened, when private individuals are not so? This is a question that merits consideration. It is in the middling classes of society, equally secure from the intoxication of power, and the compulsory labour of indigence, in which are found moderate fortunes, leisure united with habits of industry, the free intercourse of friendship, a taste for literature, and the ability to travel, that knowledge originates, and is disseminated amongst the highest and lowest orders of the people. For these latter classes, not having the leisure necessary for meditation, only adopt truths when presented to them in the form of axioms, requiring no further demonstration.
You can read it in context here [PDF].

The bit to highlight, perhaps, is this sentence: "It is in the middling classes of society, equally secure from the intoxication of power, and the compulsory labour of indigence ... that knowledge originates, and is disseminated amongst the highest and lowest orders of the people."

Part of the critique of the idea of 'bourgeois revolution' is that the bourgeoisie never seems to be seizing directly upon the state, which is what we tend to think of as 'revolution'. For nineteenth-century Liberals, however, it was precisely because the bourgeoisie lacked a political will to state-power that they were the foundation of a new kind of compact between government and civil society.


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