François Furet’s lens about French Revolution is analyzed by Gemma Betros in her paper “Finding “Revolution” within the French Revolution”. In this paper, the authoress examines Furet’s point of view and tries to understand this new angle and how it distinguishes from the traditional one. She states her analysis with many evidences and arguments, not only from Furet but also from other authors. In order to explain some of the arguments and also do a critical analysis on the main topic, it is important to address some questions as: How François Furet reinterpreted the French Revolution? Does this approach make sense? The purpose of this essay is to analyze the French Revolution in François Furet’s perspective. The main focus is to understand his critical and radical view of this event.
François Furet argues that the broader problems that led to the revolution are the internal contradictions of the political system, not the feudalism and bourgeois revolt that Karl Mark describes as the main cause of this upheaval. In his book, Interpreting the French Revolution, he states that the Marxist theory is: “kind of simple, linear schema of history, in which the bourgeois revolution, uniting the peasantry and urban masses behind it, achieves the breakthrough from the feudal to the capitalist mode of production.” [FRANÇOIS FURET, Interpreting the French Revolution, translated by Elborg Forster, 1981]. In this sense, he removed from the center of our historical concerns the old insistence upon social categories and conflicts, and replaced it with an emphasis upon the political and intellectual debates and outcomes of France’s revolutionary past.
On the other hand, Furet also criticizes the narrative tradition where the French Revolution is exposed as a history instead of a real and conceptual description of the facts, which can mislead the understanding of the event at large: it is not a moment but a continuous process. Here is the starting line of his contribution to this new interpretation that deviates from the social conflict that occur in a single moment to focus on the political context as a whole. Furet said “we must give up a conception of history that sees human beings of the past as immersed in a opacity to which only the historian…can subsequently provide the key. We must return to a history of the explicit, which in the case of the French Revolution, happens to be a history of politics.” [FRANÇOIS FURET, French Historical Studies, translated by Elborg Forster, 1990].
What is the importance of the political dimension? He believes that the French Revolution was a product of an economic crisis along with a political crisis. However, the political part had a major significance due to its connection to ideology, which represents the society’s ideas and aspirations. When the revolution took place, people were forced to bring up their inner perspectives and started to combine similar ones to form their political ideologies. Because of the Ancien Régime, these “perspectives” where kept in silence. So, the importance of the political dimension remains on Furet’s argument regarding the revolution chronology: it started before it actually happened, as a result of earlier thoughts. To substantiate this evidence he relies in two other authors: Alexis de Tocqueville and Augustin Cochin.
Tocqueville was preoccupied with a set of intellectual issues concerning equality and inequality, freedom and absolutism, and political stability and instability. The irregular decay of France's aristocracy had left a confused social system. All classes were experiencing inequities, but these took different forms in each class. The egalitarianism came from the Ancien Régime and adapted differently for each class which meant that, over time, this effect would result in a gradual revolution. This argument supports the idea of...
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