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"The French Revolution Was A Radical Political Revolution With Conservative Social Consequences". Do You Agree? Why?

1721 words - 7 pages

The French Revolution was indeed a radical political revolution which forged our modern liberal views; however the revolution also had many drastic and lasting social changes. The revolution created, as Peter McPhee states, "Twenty-five years of political upheaval and division {leaving} a legacy of memories, both bitter and sweet, and of conflicting ideologies which has lasted until our own time" and these political ideas ranged from communism to democracy and constitutional monarchy. Not only was the revolution radical in its political theories and debates but also in its social changes from overturning the noblesse d'oblige to liberating slaves and searching for equality between the sexes. This argument corresponds with the Maximalist line of thought, subscribed to by historians such as Albert Soboul, who give emphasis to the power of the French Revolution at creating a social paradigm in France and the world. However the minimalist line of thought, supported by Francois Furet contests this idea and suggests that much stayed the same throughout and after the revolution, leading to the recreation of the total supremacy of Napoleon. The revolution was not beneficial to every party who witnessed its passing, it did leave many already suffering classes in an even worse state; however it also created many social equalities, and urged the people to fill their desires in finding their freedom. There can be no doubt that the French revolution had many political transformations, however the social changes were far from conservative as the revolution battled for a radical social upheaval that was unprecedented.The French Revolution was a very politically active process which created a standard of political practice and theory which is not only discussed today, but is also very contentious. The use of propaganda throughout the revolution and the extent to which it was used is testament to exactly how radical the political side of revolution became. David mobilised entire schools of art and used them as propaganda machines for the Jacobins and all sorts of art was created in an attempt to legitimise and protect the revolutionary ideals . Not only was art a major aspect of revolutionary change but also pamphlets and newspapers were an essential aspect, perhaps the most famous example being Sieyes' "What is the Third Estate?" to which he answered nothing yet it was everything. This powerful idea that the bourgeoisie and the peasants, all members of the third estate, were the most important ambit of power within France, was clearly a basis for the theorising of a democracy. This idea of democracy and a politically active 'nation' created such a vast and powerful ideological overhaul that, as McPhee puts it succinctly, created a "rich seed bed of ideologies ranging from communism to authoritarian royalism." The political debates, elections and political rights gave the people of France a strong sense of unity and political freedom. The Jacobins themselves...

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