B. A. – 2nd Semester – Summer Drive 2012
Subject Name: Political Thinkers.
Subject code: BAE 202
4 credits (60 marks)
1. Explain Rousseau’s relation with the French Revolution.
According to this testimony, it would seem that Rousseau's influence extended through much of the popular and intellectual sphere. However, it also reached as high as the royal court. In a discourse before the Assemblée Nationale, Louis XVI goes as far as to attribute much of his difficulty in maintaining control of his empire to the wandering philosophe from Geneva:
Finally, it becomes clear that the use of Rousseau's thought in political pamphleteering may be at least partially the result of his own works. His powerful polemical style in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality is coupled with his recognition of the power of critical writing in The Social Contract. Speaking of the four forces that regulate any state, Rousseau writes:
Along with these three kinds of law goes a fourth, most important of all, which is graven not on tablets of marble or brass, but on the hearts of the citizens. This forms the real constitution of the State, takes on every day new powers, when other laws decay or die out, restores them or takes their place, keeps a people in the ways in which it was meant to go, and insensibly replaces authority by the force of habit. I am speaking of morality, of custom, above all of public opinion; a power unknown to political thinkers, on which none the less success in everything else depends.(78)
How is it that this power, unknown to political thinkers, suddenly became standard fare for pamphleteers? By their very nature, their pamphlets served as appeals to public opinion. We must consider that it may have been the revolutionary study of Rousseau that brought the force of public opinion to their attention. While this is speculation, it could be said that their presentation, both of Rousseau's thought and adaptations of his thought, in political pamphlets, is a very deliberate and well-considered appeal to public opinion. The authors, then, must have been aware that some of the views they published on Rousseau's authority were not actually his views, but glossed, spin-doctored interpretations of his work. To understand why the pamphleteers felt they could adopt, adapt and re-publish in this fashion, and to analyze the impact of the pamphlets themselves in revolutionary France, we must look at the press culture of the era.
In her essay "Economic Upheavals in Publishing," Carla Hesse traces the economic impact of the freedom of the press in France, declared by the National Assembly in 1789. Hesse is a history professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and was curator of The New York Public Library's 1989 exhibition "Revolution in Print: France 1789." The declaration of press freedom, she says, sent a well-established, closely censored culture of book publishing into sudden and utter chaos for at least four years, as the market shifted drastically with the tides of revolution. Established book publishers and censors were unclear as to what the declaration meant for their rights and duties. They struggled to uphold the status quo until new laws were clarified, while new publishers with little expertise set up presses across France to challenge the old regime, taking the National Assembly at its word that all citizens can speak, write and print freely.Therefore, The freeing of the press was to entail the demise of the entire legal and institutional infrastructure of publishing under the Old Regime: the royal patronage of letters; the royal administration of the book trade and its army of censors and inspectors; the system of literary privileges that gave publishers and authors exclusive publication rights to texts; and, finally, the monopoly of the Book Guild over printing, importing, and selling printed matter in France. This ideological revolt was soon...
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