LAncien régime et la Révolution (French Edition)

L'ancien Regime Et La Revolution
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This is where hatred between social classes had started and kept burning for generations. Philosophers and writers of a new kind appeared and published political brochures proposing new governing systems to replace the old constitution thus preparing the readers for possible emerging changes in the country. Tocqueville never mentioned the name of Chateaubriand, like he rarely mentioned any other name, but it seems likely that he pointed at him when he mentioned this as one of the causes of the coming revolution. The Church is another stepping stone that seemed to have led to unrest.

Exempt from taxes, implicated in all local politics and administrations, rich land and farm owners, providers of local judicial decisions. It was not against the Christian Religion the revolution attacked and destroyed churches and Monasteries but because the church occupied the strongest most privileged position in the old regime.

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Tocqueville wants to show in this work that the revolution was necessary, even taking into account the excessive violence, according to his conclusion it was the only way to shake off the tyranny of the despotic ruling of the monarchy. Tocqueville wrote this work at the time of a new despot ruling France.

Napoleon Bonaparte. He never mentioned his name. The book ends with the sad conclusion that the revolution had only led to the government of another despot and that the French population was not worthy of liberty. I would only recommend it to readers very interested in the period of the French Revolution, not for its literary quality.

View all 3 comments. Nov 25, Erik rated it it was amazing. Certainly one of the very greatest works of political philosophy, in some ways better than Democracy in America. Tocqueville was fascinated by the phenomenon of social equality after centuries of feudalism, and he goes so far as to say that the outward political revolutions and charters of the new post Enlightenment order were already essentially complete, as social conditions, before these revolutions ever took place.

The preparation for the French Revolution was simply that "men notice: men Certainly one of the very greatest works of political philosophy, in some ways better than Democracy in America. The preparation for the French Revolution was simply that "men notice: men were more nearly alike then they had ever been before. The political revolts and events historians associte with the revolution are simply not that important, because the event was overdetermined.

If it had not happened this way it would have happened some other way, hence any given way though sufficient is hardly necessary to the political philosopher. It's a daring thesis. It may even be true. It may even continue to be true and predictive, as Democracy in America was, and is. The more people are the same, the more arbitrary political and economic differences and privileges appear and the more easy they are to strike down with a coup de main to the system, from wherever quarter or circumstance that blow may come.

Tocqueville expresses the view that essentially the political stage of the revolution was an act of pique by the new equal man, a proto-middle class man, against such arbitrary privilege of the aristocracy, long since degenerated into inbred fops. The American revolution? Simply the pique of the colonists who already considered themselves Englishmen and were shocked to find out they were not.

Rejection always precedes anger and revenge. What can we learn today from this important and oh, so delightfully dangerous, wicked book? And there are so few truly dangerous books! Perhaps our own aristocracy of merit, our meritocracy-without-merit in other words is finally ready to fall. The one crucial lynchpin is: do people see those possessors of letters behind their names and privileged positions in the institutional structure as truly deserving--the ongoing mystique and fascination that sustained the old feudal aristocracy for centuries--or will that meritocracy be revealed as profoundly regressive and unfair, or worse, will the meritocrats simply be unmasked as no smarter or better than anyone else.

Tocqueville suggests that just such a failure of legitimacy inevitably follows the realization of a profoundly equal social condition, suddenly unmasked in this way. If only there were some way to do this convincingly for all to see, the political and economic reforms and all the rest would be easy to accomplish. Really exciting stuff to be recommended to all young revolutionaries! Aug 03, Edward rated it it was amazing. Tocqueville is most known for his "Democracy in America", and I find it unfortunate that this work languishes in its shadow, as it truly is a wonderful work of political science.

Tocqueville had managed to create a fresh examination of the Revolution while it was still in living memory. Indeed, coming for a noble background whose family was victimized by the Terror, and a friend of Legitimists or Ultraroyalists, Tocqueville manages to be a neutral perspective on a controversial event that was st Tocqueville is most known for his "Democracy in America", and I find it unfortunate that this work languishes in its shadow, as it truly is a wonderful work of political science. Indeed, coming for a noble background whose family was victimized by the Terror, and a friend of Legitimists or Ultraroyalists, Tocqueville manages to be a neutral perspective on a controversial event that was stirring passion in the politics of the time.

Tocqueville's account is a classic in that his analysis derives from direct sources of the Ancien Regime and the era, rather than as a polemical critique such as Edmund Burke's. The conclusions he arrives to contradict the popular image of the revolution, be it demonized or romanticized. Some of these conclusions we may not appreciate as a more impartial audience, such as King Louis XVI being a kind-hearted man with good intentions but lacking in skill.

However, others challenge assertions commonly held today, that the revolution was continuing the monarchy's goals and efforts at centralization. Unfortunately the book ends at the beginning of the revolution proper, which was to be an issue dealt with in a book that was never written due to Tocqueville's death. A shame for us, but we can enjoy this wonderful work nevertheless. Shelves: political-theory , favorites. As Marxism is receding from respectability, de Tocqueville's stature is growing even in France where his very bourgeois outlook and anglophile leanings have often made him extremely unpopular.

De Tocqueville's conclusion and logic are quite simple. It is highly dangerous for a corrupt regime to try to reform itself because the only thing holding it together is the self-interest of all those unscrupulously profiting from the injustices of the regime. When a reformer emerges in the ruling elite, he As Marxism is receding from respectability, de Tocqueville's stature is growing even in France where his very bourgeois outlook and anglophile leanings have often made him extremely unpopular.

When a reformer emerges in the ruling elite, he or she makes the hangers-on nervous. They start immediately looking for ways to jump ship in order to preserve their own privileges rather than closing ranks. In the view of de Tocqueville, this was has the Old Regime fell, not so much from the Parisian mobs but from the rats jumping ship. Simon Schama Citizens certainly thinks de Tocqueville got things right. Marxists starting with Marx himself however have always tried to dismiss Tocqueville as a bourgeois ideologue who failed to recognize the historical importance of revolution and the working class.

It today's world however it is de Tocqueville whose star is on the rise in academic circles. View all 10 comments. Jun 05, Bernardo Kaiser rated it really liked it. Tocqueville, a man of aristocratic origins and a son of the french revolution, holds no love for the revolutionary fervour that allowed him to get in the comfortable position of a public letterman. He is not a historian, however how he says is more important than what he says - Tocqueville shows how the vices of the new State sprang to life during the reign of the last french kings.

This is how he contradicts the arguments of Burke's pamphlet on the french revolution. Tocqueville is not a historian, so he might be unprecise in his affirmations, but is not so much how he talks about something but what he talks about. He describes a regime that slowly eroded the regional powers and obligations of the french public sphere and centralized it towards Paris. He describes a society micromanaged by bureaucrats appointed by the French king, and where public jobs become extremely more advantageous than pursuing a private entrepreneurship.

The book also mentions how, through the centralization of local powers from feudal lords and local aristocracies, customary law was corroded by a confuse and imprecise legalism from Paris and how the poorer strata of society lost its possibility of recurring to the local lords and became dependent of a detached and uninterested caste of civil servants that had no "skin in the game" and no mutual dependency towards the the peasantry and city poor.

We are so used to think of the middle ages as a time of darkness but time and time again history shows that the way society found itself organized in those time followed a rational logic and not a superstitious or tyrannical one. When the State became an empowered being, it decided to rationalize life. This aesthetic desire of a rational, equanimous and centralized society was the greatest sin of the old regime, and the great obsession of the State in modern times.

Aug 14, Laurens van der Tang rated it really liked it. There really is no excuse for only reading Tocqueville's Democracy in America. It analyzes the spirit of the French Revolution very accurately, although the factual information is not always correct when he states France was affluent during the reign of Louis XIV. Oct 19, Ali rated it liked it Shelves: theories , world-history.

The book analyzes French society before the French Revolution, investigates the causes and forces that brought about the Revolution, develops his main theory about continuity in which he states that even though the French tried to disassociate themselves from the past and from the old regime; they continued with the same powerful central government. It was essentially a movement for political and social reform to increase the power and jurisdiction of the central authority. The Revolution never The book analyzes French society before the French Revolution, investigates the causes and forces that brought about the Revolution, develops his main theory about continuity in which he states that even though the French tried to disassociate themselves from the past and from the old regime; they continued with the same powerful central government.

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The Revolution never intended to change the whole nature of the civilization, or make any big change in the principles basic to the structure of the society This book was recommended to me by Christophe Chamley, a French professor of mine, who recommended it as his favorite on political economy. He ranked it much higher than Democracy in America, which I am yet to read. However, I strongly suspect that this is due to his own cultural predispositions.

Despite the ending, the book attributes the French revolution as much to a unique political economic climate than some essential characteristic of the French nation.

People under the Old Regime

It is hard to summarize a book with so many insightful details and anecdotes. That being said, I take the books' essential political thesis as the following: 1 The King of France had lots of incentives to remove the political power of the aristocracy. For short-termist reasons, the monarchy decided to let the aristocracy maintain its economic privileges 2 The removal of the ancient responsibilities of the nobles left a political and technical power vacuum in the countryside 3 The centralization of power and ideas in cosmopolitan Paris led to the development of a highly abstract political philosophy focused on things like 'universal rights' and 'the original position.

They never took seriously its implications. The monarchy used enlightenment rhetoric when removing privileges from guilds, towns and aristocrats. Technocrats and 'economists' agreed that the main problems of the peasants could be solved through the correct application of centralized power. The recent book "Seeing Like a State" is a modern retelling of this dilemma -- far off, 'scientific', technocratic governance, even when benevolent, often makes things worse. This is one important sense in egalitarianism and liberty are opposed.

For example, he says of the corrupt judicial system "The irregular interventions of the courts in government, which often disturbed the efficient administration of business, thus served as a safegaurd of men's freedom from time to time. This was a case of one great evil setting limits on an even greater one" because it sometimes impeded the growth of a tyrannical monarchy. With the goals of equality and rationality it abruptly eliminated the Church and the aristocracy, further transforming the country into a uniform mass - ready for technocratic manipulation, 'education' and 'improvement'.

This rapid and idealistic unmooring of society made the reign of terror possible. At its height, the revolution sought even to reorganize and standardize things like months and seasons. Some liberal institutions were established at the beginning of the revolution, but these were soon abandoned as barriers to 'efficiency'. Think here of the different emphasis on individual versus collective rights in Scottish and French Enlightenment thought. This made the moment ripe, as the progress made the common people hopeful and impatient. The author writes, "They seemed to love freedom; it turns out they simply hated the master.

And in the words of de Tocqueville "It is indeed true that in the long term, freedom always brings with it, to those who are skilled enough to keep hold of it, personal comfort, well-being and often great wealth Ultimately a great book. It just misses 5 stars because some of the discussions are hard to follow without a better descriptions of the various main actors.

It also sometimes drags. The edition I had was the one pictured. It seemed a solid translation and contained the often interesting original endnotes. As a final note, I was reading this book, sometimes aloud at my Grandfather's sickbed. For what it's worth. Aug 27, Bruce rated it it was amazing. At the very beginning of the book Tocqueville stresses that his is not a history per se but rather an assessment and evaluation. He also attempts to generalize and to discover what characteristics and motives might apply to other societies, always exploring the differences between France and its neighbors in terms of unique and distinguishing characteristics.

He stresses that a country and society will sink whenever equality and despotism are combined, which is what gradually happened during the Revolution. Government in France was already highly centralized at the beginning of the Revolution, having progressively become so over the previous century. The Revolution had two distinct phases: the desire to destroy every remnant of the past, and the subsequent attempt to regain a portion of what had been thrown off.

Gradually the latter overwhelmed the former. The goal was not a change in government but a change in society. Furthermore the nobility became less hereditary as merchants and middle class families bought their way into it or were rewarded with nobility by the Crown for services rendered.

As nobles decreasingly spent time residing on their properties, the peasantry grew to view them as increasingly parasitic and oppressive. Since the peasantry received less and less from the nobility, the feudal system seemed more intolerable. Class was deteriorating into caste. In the same way, the monarchy which fell during the Revolution was resurrected in the Empire afterward. The opposition of the Revolution to the Church was less an objection to the local poor clergy than it was to the opulence and venality of ecclesiastical leadership and to the vast land holdings and freedom of taxation that the Church enjoyed.

Revolutionary leaders came to believe that veneration of the Nation rather than of the Church was required in order for national unity and sacrifice to be achieved and for the nation to be protected and established in its new identity.

L’Ancien régime et la Révolution (French Edition)

The philosophical basis for the Revolution came from literary and philosophical elites without experience in actual governing, without the awareness and skill for the political flexibility and compromising necessary for managing a complex society. The same skills were lacking in the masses. As equality increasingly became the holy grail, what fell by the wayside were tradition, individual liberties, and distinctions of class and station. No stabilizing structures remained, and skill in managing society could not be found, those individuals previously exercising such skills having been eliminated.

An attempt was made to govern by an unlimited executive combined with legislative authority, but this failed. His writing is always clear and articulate, and in this work he presents observations and insights that, combined with those of other historians and political philosophers, can shed light on the issues involved in the French Revolution and the trajectory taken by events before, during, and after it. A study of this book is invaluable for the reader desiring deeper understanding of the French Revolution and how it was understood by those living in the six decades following it. Sep 28, Sandra rated it liked it.

My first Tocqueville, and already not my favorite Tocqueville. It was too detailed and too tedious for my taste. I have much higher hopes for Democracy in America. Alexis de Tocqueville was a nineteenth century aristocrat and liberal who, after visiting the United States of America, became so interested in the concept of democracy that he wrote two huge volumes on 'Democracy in America'. One of the main themes in this work is the problem of how to combine the struggle for liberty with the struggle for equality.

Tocqueville saw the struggle for equality as a danger to the freedom of individuals. Equality requires a centralized authority to make things equal Alexis de Tocqueville was a nineteenth century aristocrat and liberal who, after visiting the United States of America, became so interested in the concept of democracy that he wrote two huge volumes on 'Democracy in America'. Equality requires a centralized authority to make things equal and, combined with the process of democracy, leads to a situation in which every individual will be just that: an individual.

This will lead inevitably to a transfer of power to the state and the rule of the majority, and hence destroy the personal autonomy of the individual. In the USA, according to Tocqueville, this paradox was resolved by the strong sense of community: the state governments, but especially the townships, were a decent bulwark against the centralizing tendencies of the federal government. In Democracy in America , Tocqueville concludes that democracy worked in the USA because it could start from scratch; democracy in Europe would be an entirely different matter - historical developments had already led to very unequal societies in which classes and despots were already present.

Tocqueville delved into the administrative archives to unearth the society of eighteenth century France, in order to explain how the French Revolution originated and why - also: why in France and why at that particular moment ? So what's Tocqueville's answer to these questions? According to him, in the eighteenth century, there were different strands, all intertwining to develop into the explosion we now call the French revolution.

First, feudalism was eroded - peasants were landowners and the aristocracy gradually lost all its finances, but increasingly gained in power. At the same time, a middle class developed that gained ever more financial power, eventually becoming much more powerful than the old aristocratic elite. France was a strongly stratified society: the three classes - nobility, bourgeouis, commoners - didn't mingle with and looked unfavourably towards each other.

During the eighteenth century - and really from the reign of Louis XIV in the seventeenth century - the French kings increasingly spend more and more money on wars, and because of the decline of the aristocracy gained tremendously in power. The result of all these events? To finance the expenditures of the French state, the king needed taxes.

Because the administrative and judicial systems were almost exclusively manned by bourgeous, and the nobility held exclusive privileges to exemptions from taxes, the state increasingly taxed the poorest people: the commoners. This led to frustration and growing unrest.

Tocqueville’s Political Thought - Political Science - Oxford Bibliographies

During this process, the French state centralized more and more, eventually ending up with the situation that 'just' the city of Paris governed the rest of France. The countryside and the smaller towns were only peopled by the French without money - if you had any money you would build your future in the capital. In effect this meant that the nobility ruled the countryside and the towns without being present. This strengthened the already ongoing process of alienation of the nobility from the commoners.

According to Tocqueville, this was a state bound to crumble. When Louis XVI tried to reform his administrative system, sending many bourgeois officials home, he created - in one instance - a society of individuals, in which everyone looked at everyone else with hatred and envy. For years the philosophes had inspired a sense of injustice and inequality in the common people and, strangely enough, the nobility.

Just before the Revolution broke out, the nobility had tried to help better the situation of the commoners; this was also what king Louis XVI tried to do with his reforms. So, absurdly, the Revolution was heralded and if not heralded, at least welcomed by the nobility, who would be the first ones on the list of the commoners, when they got rid of the king. The people, spurred on by the political ideologies some would say demagogery of the philosophes, resented king and nobleman alike and held both accountable for the abominable state they were in.

And since the Catholic church was in league with the state - and derived much power and authority from this relationship - they felt strong passions for anticlericalism and antireligiosity. And the bourgeois? They just went on with their business, administering the organs of the state. The only thing that really changed was their ruler. Tocqueville claims that the lesson we should learn from this among others is that ideals of equality really, democracy and ideals of liberty really, autonomy can conflict with each other and clash violently. The nobility stood by, while the bourgeouis just went about their business on their financial ego-trip.

When the situation got so bad that, out of sympathy, king and nobility wanted to reform the situation, the slightest betterment led to immense feelings of unfairness and inequality by the masses. Originally meant as part 1 of a trilogy on the Revolution, this is Tocqueville's only finished book on the subject. He intended to write two subsequent works: one detailing how the Revultion progressed and the other explaining what came after it.

He continuously compares the situation after the Revolution with pre-Revolutionary, eighteenth century France, and concludes that nothing really changed. The Revolution happened; and existing state structures and especially the trend of ever-increasing centralization of state power were used as tools by the new regime. I continue to be amazed by Alexis de Tocqeuville's sharp insights and his eloquent analyses of the themes of democracy, equality, liberty and centralization.

The struggle for equality leads to a situation in which liberty eventually succumbs and a centralized authority emerges. Although he was an aristocrat, Tocqueville seems to have accepted the changing times and he seems to have sympathy for the poor and powerless; he also seems to be a true liberal, fighting for personal freedom and autonomy and warning us for the potential dangers of democracy.

He saw Napoleon I as the culmination of all the bad sides of democracy; he was thrown in prison because he observed the exact same trend with the rise of the war-hungry demagogue Napoleon III. Amazing thinker; amazing book; amazing subject. If Tocqueville had completed all three sections, it seems likely that his work on France would have eclipsed his work on America in importance see: Harvey and Heseltine, The Oxford Companion to French Literature.

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