Rethinking the French Revolution: Marxism and the Revisionist Challenge

By George C. Comninel | Go to book overview

3
Bourgeois Revolution: A Liberal Concept

Bourgeois Revolution Before Marx

In recent years, both Albert Soboul and Raphael Samuel made a point of the fact that the idea of bourgeois revolution originated with early liberal historians of the French Revolution. 1 Each stressed the continuity of this interpretation from these early origins to the present. Soboul traced it back to Barnave, Robespierre, and Sieyès in the period of the Revolution (the political ideology of which will be considered in a later chapter), while Samuel highlighted the debt owed by Marx to the French historians of the Restoration period, Thierry, Mignet and Guizot.

In 1948, Christopher Hill alluded to Guizot's class analysis of the English revolution of the 1640s; yet as Samuel has noted, in keeping with the general tone of Marxism at the time he left the impression that the concept of bourgeois revolution -- and the linking of the French Revolution with the English -- was an innovation by Marx. 2 Soboul also, early in his career, had credited 'the most clear-sighted of the doctrinaire apologists of the middle class' in the nineteenth century with recognition of the historical 'creation and rise of the bourgeoisie'. He had argued, however, that they were incapable of shedding light on the fact that

the Revolution is to be explained in the last analysis by a contradiction between the social basis of the economy and the character of the productive forces. 3

-53-

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Rethinking the French Revolution: Marxism and the Revisionist Challenge
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 4
  • 1- The French Revolution As Bourgeois Revolution: Orthodoxy and Challenge 5
  • Notes 25
  • 2- The Marxist Response 28
  • Notes 51
  • 3- Bourgeois Revolution: A Liberal Concept 53
  • Notes 74
  • 4- In Defense of History: A Marxist Critique of Marxist Theory 77
  • Notes 102
  • 5- Liberal Ideology and the Politics Of the Revolution 104
  • Notes 119
  • 6- Marx's Early Thought 121
  • Notes 131
  • 7- Historical Materialism 133
  • Notes 176
  • Conclusion: Towards a Marxist Interpretation of the French Revolution 179
  • Notes 205
  • Select Bibliography 208
  • Index 219
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