1. A pamphlet written by Abeé Sieyès titled, “What is the Third Estate?” was a major focal point of the Revolution.


  1. Daniel Roche; “France in the Enlightenment;” Harvard University Press, Cambridge; 1998;  p.p. 212, 264-265. The historical approach of this book is broad, not unlike that of the social sciences.


  1. Roche, p. 347.


  1. Roche, p. 434.


  1. Simon Schama; “Citizens;” Alfred Knopf, New York; 1989; p. 185. If you’re interested in France and the epochal Revolution, this narrative book is an excellent read.


In social matters, cautious generalization beyond narration is possible. Take, for example, the general proposition that culture affects political behavior. This can be shown both by empirical study, Inglehart and Welzel (2005) among others, and from practical experience. A 5/8/07 International Herald Tribune article relates that in 1944, prior to the occupation of Japan, the U.S. government sent 1500 civilian and military administrators to study Japanese culture at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Michigan, “…the U.S. occupation of Japan was an outstanding achievement. At least part of that success can be ascribed to the fact that in the midst of the chaos, confusion, and sacrifices of a war, the Americans had the wisdom to operate on the fundamental assumption that knowledge and culture matter (our emphasis)…This is not a pious point. In nation-building as in life, perceptions matter, and missing the subtlety of the symbols and values of others is an unforgivable strategic error.”.


  1. Schama, p.p. 61-62.


  1. Roche, p.p. 462, 480.


  1. Roche, p. 481. This kind of conflict often occurs in developing societies, and it bears some more discussion. In developing societies, the traditional authority structure grew in a different environment. Then there are some large shocks: war, colonialism, economic changes, the education of students abroad, and so on. As a result, Isaiah Berlin (1996 ed.) writes, “…one process that vitally affects the development of a society falls out of step with some other equally central process or cluster of processes.”


In the resulting culture wars, the natural reaction of the old elite is to hang on. The reaction of the modernizers is to push for change. The crucial question then becomes whether the political culture allows for compromise and whether good leadership can steer the ship of state and its fractious crew to a safe harbor. Unfortunately, during times of extreme stress, people can turn towards the extremes, which makes the task all the more difficult.


  1. Roche, p.p. 477,481.


  1. Roche, p. 482. A historian is skeptical of ideology, believing in the contingency of events. However, form can subsequently matter. In U.S. law, for example, the limits of rights and liberties are always being tested at the margin; but the applicable precedents evolve but slowly.


  1. Schama, p.p. 290, 478-479.


  1. Roche, p. 262. We won’t mention the details.


  1. Some say that abstract ideas alone cause historical atrocities. Critics point to a sentence from Rousseau’s The Social Contract, and then argue that the Terror was the inevitable outcome of his collectivist General Will - neglecting what he said about legitimate particular interests in a democracy. But, as historian Juan Cole (2007) quotes in a footnote (chapter 3, #6), “…the state’s use of violence…had a Hobbesian character and was a response to insecurity, communal disturbances, and rebellions.”


The English regard government as a set of practical arrangements among people. Edmund Burke was the Revolution’s most immediate and famous critic. In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1789), Hackett (ed.), p. 53, he argues that these arrangements cannot be created de novo. He writes, “The science of government being therefore so practical in itself and intended for such practical purposes – a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life … it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.”


In particular, Gary Kates (1985) cites that eighteenth-century French politics, “was often guided by circles of friends or other personal networks rather than by formal political parties.” Modern democracies require effective political parties that enable the citizenry to express their political views and to bargain on their behalf. The French were unable to establish order until DeGaulle’s Fifth Republic in 1958 – 169 years later.


The issue of political culture emerged in a congressional hearing looking into the Bush Administration’s firing of eight federal prosecutors. N.Y. Senator Charles Schumer grilled former Justice Department attorney general Alberto Gonzales, pointing out that although the prosecutors represent the legal interests of the federal government in the states, by custom the President appoints a local attorney from the state to administer his justice, who must later return to the community. This custom, probably not described anywhere in the Federal Register, checks the power of the central government in the states and demonstrates how contemporary U.S. democracy operates, also through a subtle set of social checks and balances. The hapless Mr. Gonzales probably did not much care about this dimension, and lost the bipartisan Judiciary Committee’s trust.


Burke then makes the useful formal distinction between democracy as simple majority rule and liberal democracy, p. 119. “All the struggle, all the dissension arose afterwards upon the preference of a despotic democracy to a government of reciprocal control.”


  1. Michael Jensen and William Meckling; “The Nature of Man;” 1994;  Social Science Research Network Electronic Library , p. 3.


  1. Jensen, p. 4. Irrational behavior is, of course, the opposite.


  1. The breakdown in social order also had adverse and wide economic effects. Schama, p. 185, writes, “In 1795, the total value of France’s trade was less than half what it had been in 1789; by 1815 it was still at about 60 percent. The momentum of economic and social change in France only picked up as the Revolution and the military state it created in its wake disappeared.”


  1. Tony Smith; “A Pact with the Devil;” Routledge Taylor and Francis, New York; 2007, p. 198.