Rethinking the French Revolution: Marxism and the Revisionist Challenge

By George C. Comninel | Go to book overview

4
In Defense of History: A Marxist Critique of Marxist Theory

The straightforward account of the French Revolution offered in the Communist Manifesto is a problem for Marxists. This fact was indirectly acknowledged even by Soboul, who turned to the Sweezy-Dobb transition debate in order to find some grounds for a re-situation of the classic social interpretation. When faced with the difficult task of defending the Marxist account of bourgeois revolution against damning evidence to the contrary, the understandable and wholly appropriate response has been to consider what Marxist theory has to say.

Unfortunately, Marxist theory has not so far proved very helpful. A good part of the historical observations contained within Marx's texts have been drawn from or influenced by historical accounts that are tinged with liberal ideology. Far from resolving this problem, Marxist theoreticians have only reproduced it at another level, for they have based their theoretical approaches to history on many of the conceptions which must in fact be called into question. While Marxist historians such as Soboul, Hobsbawm, and Rudé have made important contributions to our understanding of the lives and struggles of ordinary people in pre-capitalist and transitional periods, Marxist theory has been unable to deal adequately with the periods themselves.

Marx's work embraced many fields, but Cobban was not wrong in describing its central theoretical perspective as historical sociology: the historical study of social structure, and, above all, the study of history as social change. As will be seen,

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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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