Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Fair Shares for All: Jacobin Egalitarianism in Practice

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Fair Shares for All: Jacobin Egalitarianism in Practice

Article excerpt

Jean-Pierre Gross Cambridge University Press, 1997 ISBN 0-521-56318-6

In the words of the publishers, "This study explores the egalitarian policies pursued in the provinces during the radical phase of the French Revolution, but moves away from the habit of looking at such issues in terms of the Terror alone. It challenges revisionist readings of Jacobinism that dwell on its totalitarian potential or portray it as dangerously utopian." In short, this is itself a "revisionist" work which seeks to detract from the established view (by calling that "revisionist") of the role of the Jacobins in promoting the hatred and blood-bathed excesses in the French Revolution, and in preparing the way for the totalitarianism that dominated that murderous affair. The author is blatantly sympathetic to Jacobin doctrine, and it is perhaps for this reason that the book makes enlightening reading for anyone sufficiently well-versed in the history of the French Revolution to avoid being mislead by its propagandist bias.

Gross correctly states that the mainstream Jacobin agenda held out the promise of "fair shares" and equal opportunities for all in a private-ownership market economy. He then goes on to argue that it sought to achieve these goals, which he regards as "social justice," in a fashion which somehow was to avoid detracting from individual freedom and "human rights." In his view "Revolutionary experience confirms that fair shares for all can be achieved, if the circumstances are right [our italics], by appealing to people's sense of equity and relying on their sociability. …

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