Free Essay About Legacies Of The French Revolution

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Revolution, Politics, French Revolution, France, Russia, Democracy, Ruling, Bourgeois

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/17

The idea of revolution has taken on different meanings throughout the course of history. In the centuries before the 1500s, revolution was merely a term used to refer to the astronomical cycle. This definition was used in a slightly different sense during the period of the English upheavals in 1640 until 1688, wherein it was meant to refer to fundamental political changes but still maintaned its original sense of cycling back to its previous state of affairs. However, during the French Revolution, the term revolution came to mean a fundamental and innovative change in the country’s social and political aspect. Massive social revolutions within France made a strong impact in world history as the said revolutions resulted to balance in power, changes in class relations, and ideologiacl models. As such, western states in the nineteenth-century adapted the French political vocabulary of revolution (Hobsbawm, 1990, p.37).
The 1789 French Revolution was an influential revolution that resulted to social and political upheaval. With the active participation of the Jacobins, “the most consistent and effective revolutionaries” (Hobsbawm, 1990, p.52), the French Revolution of 1789 was considered a “bourgeois revolution.” France, coming from a dramatic failure in the Seven Year’s War and the American Revolutionary War was in the process of restoring its financial status and has resorted to unjust taxation schemes that proved to further put the peasants at a greater disadvantage. Through the Jacobins, an organization with a left-wing, revolutionary politics, mainly composed of the bourgeoisie who worked with the sans-culottes or the working class Parisians, the peasants were freed from feudal exactions and more privelege to work in the government, army and civil servants were given to men of non-noble origin. However, with the abolition of the arsitocratic privilege, plutocratic privilege came about. This established a capitalist state wherein the economic class was only divided into two: those who owned property and those who did not.
The idea of the 1789 Revolution as a “bourgeois revolution” developed and expanded in the latter part of the 19th century until the early 20th centuries as the same rhetoric was also adapted by the the suceeding revolutions. The Frenchworkers in 1830, as well as the Liberal authorities whome they were fighting against, adapted the same rhetoric. This was followed by the German and Austrian socialists movements. The idea was also said to be extended to the Russian Revolution when the Current History Magazine of the New York Times published in July 1917 an article likening the Bolsheviks of Russia to the Jacobins of France (Hobsbawm, 1990, p.37). The article was titled “The Russian and French Revolutions 1789-1917: Parallels and Contrasts.” Similarities were established, one of which was the apparent resurrection of an aspect of the French Revolution, which was the launching of a call for a war of patriotic resistance, similar to that of the Jacobin’s, aimed at Germany in order to keep Russia in the Great War (Hobsbawm, 1990, p.55).
Despite the precedence established by the French Revolution, antirevolutionary texts continue to deny its established influence. However, the idea of democratic politics which has also started spreading in other bourgeois countries provides a proof that it was an effective revolution (Hobsbawm, 1990, p.74). Electoral democracy, today an integral part of politics in many countries, was established. The women, the poor, and the ignorant were given the right to vote. The large part of these attacks stemmed from what has become of France after the Revolution. There was the fact that France’s politics became unstable, leading to the continuous change of regime which failed to last for more than twenty years. There was also the presence of corruption and demagogues which were products of Robespierre.
Hobsbawm was firm in his argument that the claim stating that the French Revolution was neither “bourgeois” nor transformative was merely politically motivated. The French Revolution paved the way for electoral democracy, something that the ruling classes were extremely worried about. Contemporary historians, according to Hobsbawm, view progress and revolutionary democracy as dangerous concepts because they threaten the power of the ruling classes. The claim that the Revolution only gave France “universal suffrage without intelligence” (Hobsbawm, 1990, p.73), and that universal suffrage only “undermined the authority of the enlightened classes” (Hobsbawm, 1990, p.73) are unfounded and based primarily on the fear that the ruling classes would lose power. The Revolution gave the people the voice that was once quenched by the nobles and the ruling class, casting aside the power they acquired through capitalism, and overthrowing their reign characterized by abuse and unfair priveleges contained within their class. Despite the apparent “graft, spoils, demagogy, and political machines” (Hobsbawm, 1990, p.75) that the ruling classes saw in the government of the United States, and the apparent decline in the government of France as a main consequence of an unstable government, the political democracy that is the legacy of the Revolution will continue to exist all over the world.

Work Cited

Hobsbawm, E. J. Echoes of the Marseillaise: Two Centuries Look Back on the French
Revolution. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990. Print.

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