The Bourgeois Citizen in Nineteenth-Century France: Gender, Sociability, and the Uses of Emulation

By Carol E. Harrison | Go to book overview

2
Contesting the Public Sphere: Associations and the Government in Nineteenth-Century France

Following the lead of Alexis de Tocqueville, scholars of revolutionary and nineteenth-century France assert that government centralization destroyed those institutions that mediated between the political and the social. The process left nineteenth-century French society an atomized and levelled field on which the bureaucratic state could operate freely. While eighteenth-century historians have explored the contours of a Habermasian public sphere,1 nineteenth-century specialists remain attached to a dialectic of public and private.2 The Enlightenment's

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1
Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Thomas Burger (trans.) ( Cambridge, MA, 1989) is the origin of current explorations of the public sphere in the eighteenth century. Among those who have developed the concept of the public sphere in pre-revolutionary France, see Dena Goodman , The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment ( Ithaca, 1994); Daniel Gordon, Citizens without Sovereignty: Equality and Sociability in French Thought, 1670-1789 ( Princeton, 1994); Keith Michael Baker, 'Defining the Public Sphere in "Eighteenth-Century France: Variations on a Theme by Habermas'", in Habermas and the Public Sphere, Craig Calhoun (ed.) ( Cambridge, MA, 1992), 181-211; and Joan Landes, Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution ( Ithaca, 1988).
2
A History of Private Life ( Cambridge, MA, 1989-90) offers the clearest example of this historiographical shift between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While volume 3, From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment ( Roger Chartier (ed.)) presents a world in which institutions of the public sphere structured the relationship between family and state, the nineteenth-century volume ( From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War, Michèle Perrot (ed.)) concentrates almost exclusively on the family whose relationship to the state is largely unmediated. Critiques of this dichotomy include Daniel Gordon, 'The Idea of Sociability in Pre-Revolutionary France' (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1990), 370-5; Mary P. Ryan, Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880 ( Baltimore, 1990); and Carole Pateman, "'Feminist Critiques of the Public/Private Dichotomy'", in The Disorder of Women ( Stanford, 1989), 118-40. On the old regime, see Dena Goodman, 'Public Sphere and Private Life: Toward a Synthesis of Current Historiographical Approaches to the Old Regime', History and Theory, 31 ( 1992), 1-20 and Lawrence Klein, "'Gender and the Public/Private Distinction: Some Questions about Evidence and Analytic Procedure'", Eighteenth-Century Studies, 29 ( 1995), 97-107.

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