The Ancien Régime and the Revolution

Recommended by Lynn Hunt, and 1 others. See all reviews

Ranked #15 in French History, Ranked #85 in Revolutionsee more rankings.

The Ancien Régime and the Revolution is a powerful comparison of revolutionary France and the despotic rule it toppled. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) is an objective commentator of both periods – providing a merciless critique of the ancien régime, with its venality, oppression and inequality, yet acknowledging the reforms introduced under Louis XVI, and claiming that the post-Revolution state was in many ways as tyrannical as that of the King; its once lofty and egalitarian ideals corrupted and forgotten. Writing in the 1850s, Tocqueville wished to expose the return to... more

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Lynn Hunt What’s striking is that he is able to develop broad analytical categories that relate the French Revolution to the direction of modern society as a whole, which he sees as the destruction of the aristocracy and the coming of democracy. But he adds a twist that will remain influential to this day, which is that he points to the weakness of democracy as a form of government. It has an internal, inherent tendency to lead to despotism unless there are certain conditions that prevent that from happening. (Source)

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