Capitalism and the Emergence of Civic Equality in Eighteenth-Century France

Capitalism and the Emergence of Civic Equality in Eighteenth-Century France

by William H. Sewell Jr.

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There is little doubt that the political revolutions of the eighteenth century changed the course of Western history. But why did the idea of civic equality find such fertile ground in France? What is the relationship between political ideas and economic realities?
William H. Sewell Jr. turns to the experience of commercial capitalism to show how the commodity form abstracted social relations. The increased independence, flexibility, and anonymity of market relations made equality between citizens not only conceivable but attractive. Commercial capitalism found its way into the interstices of this otherwise rigidly hierarchical society, coloring social relations and paving the way for the establishment of civic equality. Sewell ties together masterful analyses of a multitude of interrelated topics: the rise of commerce, the emergence of urban publics, the careers of the philosophes, commercial publishing, patronage, political economy, trade, and state finance. Capitalism and the Emergence of Civic Equality in Eighteenth-Century France offers an original interpretation of one of history’s pivotal moments.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226770321
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 04/16/2021
Series: Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.00(d)

About the Author

William H. Sewell Jr. is the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Political Science and History at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The French Revolution and the Shock of Civic Equality

Chapter 1: Old Regime State and Society

Chapter 2: The Eighteenth-Century Economy: Commerce and Capitalism

Part 1: The Emergence of an Urban Public

Chapter 3: The Commercial Public Sphere

Chapter 4: The Empire of Fashion

Chapter 5: The Parisian Promenade

Part 2: The Philosophes and the Career Open to Talent

Chapter 6: The Philosophe Career and the Impossible Example of Voltaire

Chapter 7: Denis Diderot: Living by the Pen

Chapter 8: The Abbé Morellet: Between Publishing and Patronage

Chapter 9: Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Self-Deceived Clientage

Part 3: Royal Administration and the Promise of Political Economy

Chapter 10: Tocqueville’s Challenge: Royal Administration and the Rise of Civic Equality

Chapter 11: Warfare, Taxes, and Administrative Centralization: The Double Bind of Royal Finance

Chapter 12: Political Economy: A Solution to the Double Bind?

Chapter 13: Navigating the Double Bind: Efforts at Reform

Conclusion: The Revolution and the Advent of Civic Equality

Epilogue: Civic Equality and the Continuing History of Capitalism




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