French revolution and Enlightenment - Essay Example

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How much of the political ideals of the Enlightenment were reflected in the revolution? Do you agree with the contention that all the revolution achieved was the replacement of one ruling elite with…
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French revolution and Enlightenment
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Download file to see previous pages privileged, power and the control of the Revolution was passed on from the privileged class to the middle class, and then, temporarily, to the poor and extreme – the sans-cullotes in Paris. It is in this sense that the French Revolution of 1789, which lasted for ten years, is hailed by historians as an event which changed societies.
The idea of nationalism, as known in modern times, was a product of the French Revolution. It also provided the empirical data from which Karl Marx, among others, based his theory of modern revolution. Moreover, it served as an important model for succeeding revolutions that changed the rest of the world.
Most historians would consider the political ideals of the Enlightenment as the driving force behind the Revolution. Some, such as Burke, even went as far as including Rousseau and his philosophy. Rousseau’s book, The Social Contract, is considered the Bible of many leaders of the French Revolution (Russell, 1945). Russell also states that Robespierre’s reign is the fruit of Rousseau’s teaching. Moreover, he also holds Rousseau’s ideas partly responsible for the dictatorships of Russia and Germany. Specifically, he writes, “Hitler is an outcome of Rousseau.”
Even if Rousseau’s ideas did bring about Robespierre’s reign of Terror, wherein thousands were executed for alleged crimes against the Revolution, and the dictatorships of Russia and Germany, he did advocate democracy. Our modern idea of democracy is what he calls elective aristocracy and this, for him, is the best form of government. However, he points out that this is not for all countries. His idea of democracy, no doubt, was the thread that connected him to the French Revolution. Eventually, the idea of democracy brought about the downfall of monarchy in France.
According to Karl Marx, all the Revolution did was replace the feudal economic system of France with that of a capitalistic system, which reinforced the peasantry. It is at this point that one may ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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