CategoriesWilliam H. Sewell Jr.
Capitalism and the Emergence of Civic Equality in Eighteenth-Century France
There is little doubt that the French Revolution of 1789 changed the course of Western history. But why did the idea of civic equality—a distinctive signature of that revolution—find such fertile ground in France? How might changing economic and social realities have affected political opinions?
William H. Sewell Jr. argues that the flourishing of commercial capitalism in eighteenth-century France introduced a new independence, flexibility, and anonymity to French social life. By entering the interstices of this otherwise rigidly hierarchical society, expanded commodity exchange colored everyday experience in ways that made civic equality thinkable, possible, even desirable, when the crisis of the French Revolution arrived. Sewell ties together masterful analyses of a multitude of interrelated topics: the rise of commerce, the emergence of urban publics, the careers of the philosophes, commercial publishing, patronage, political economy, trade, and state finance. Capitalism and the Emergence of Civic Equality in Eighteenth-Century France offers an original interpretation of one of history’s pivotal moments.
2021 | 416 pages