By Sarah Maza
Who, precisely, have been the French bourgeoisie? in contrast to the Anglo-Americans, who broadly embraced middle-class beliefs and values, the French--even the main prosperous and conservative--have continually rejected and maligned bourgeois values and identification. during this new method of the previous query of the bourgeoisie, Sarah Maza specializes in the the most important interval ahead of, in the course of, and after the French Revolution, and gives a provocative resolution: the French bourgeoisie hasn't ever existed. regardless of the massive numbers of first rate middling town-dwellers, no team pointed out themselves as bourgeois. Drawing on political and fiscal concept and historical past, own and polemical writings, and works of fiction, Maza argues that the bourgeoisie was once by no means the social norm. in truth, it functioned as a severe counter-norm, an imagined and perilous embodiment of materialism, self-interest, commercialism, and mass tradition, which outlined all that the French rejected. A problem to traditional knowledge approximately smooth French historical past, this ebook poses broader questions on the function of anti-bourgeois sentiment in French tradition, via suggesting parallels among the figures of the bourgeois, the Jew, and the yankee within the French social imaginary. it's a wonderful and well timed foray into our ideals and fantasies concerning the social global and our definition of a social type. (20030801)
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Additional resources for The Myth of the French Bourgeoisie: An Essay on the Social Imaginary, 1750-1850
The Revolution was quick to repudiate this unholy association of privilege with citizenship. A 1791 dictionary of political and constitutional terms had this to say in its article on Citoyen: “[T]he French were not citizens before the Revolution returned to them their natural rights . . ”30 While grounded in legal and historical fact, the concept of the bourgeois as citizen was problematic. It was too dangerously democratic for the Old Regime (hence all those cautionary 24 the myth of the french bourgeoisie examples of the bourgeoisie taking up arms), too heinously exclusive, indeed aristocratic, for the Revolution.
The assemblage of persons [peuple] residing in a town. Cives. ’ . . Bourgeois is also said of each inhabitant of the town. Civis. ’”29 These same dictionaries noted, of course, that bourgeoisie was synonymous with privilege, that it included in particular exemption from the standard commoners’ tax, the taille. The Revolution was quick to repudiate this unholy association of privilege with citizenship. A 1791 dictionary of political and constitutional terms had this to say in its article on Citoyen: “[T]he French were not citizens before the Revolution returned to them their natural rights .
41 It was no coincidence that the publication of Coyer’s piece coincided with the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War. Whether or not he intended to provoke it, Coyer’s seemingly practical proposal touched off a blizzard of debate. His pamphlet was reprinted several times, as was the most famous response to it by the chevalier d’Arcq, and dozens of other writers joined the fray. 42 Most of the response to Coyer was negative, often stridently so. For many people in the 1750s, noblesse commerçante was as much of an oxymoron as bourgeois gentilhomme—for much the same reasons.