French Literacy Essay During The Old Regime

Historians working on sociability during the Enlightenment have shown that the public sphere was not merely literary but was also political, and scholars such as Arlette Farge, Robert Darnton, and Lisa Jane Graham have argued for the existence of a political public sphere among the urban lower classes in Paris.However, in spite of this broadening of Habermas' original construct, we have continued to assume that in this era of politicization and effervescence, the great majority of the population - the peasantry - remained silent.

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Moreover, it stands to reason that the king would care little about the political opinions of the rural laborers who made up the majority of his subjects.

Unlike the lawmakers and wealthy merchants who sat in the and on the councils of larger cities, peasants were scarcely able to exert any influence, and while peasant revolts could be inconvenient, they were unlikely to threaten the viability of the government or the life of the king as might an insurrection of the Parisian lower classes.

However, the story of Marrot suggests that the political awareness of the majority was already a reality when the Bastille fell.

In the past fifteen years, we have made much of Jürgen Habermas' concept of an eighteenth-century public sphere, an urban space in which public opinion developed, flourished, and came to exert pressure on the authorities.

They were also childlike, easily led astray, and a target for politically savvy, ill-intentioned individuals.

They could be volatile, unpredictable, hot-headed - even violent.

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Sensory words that designate agitation or impending revolt highlighted the volatile, unpredictable nature of the rural population: By implying that the disturbance is the result not of calculated and reasoned action but of an impulsive, reactive, and essentially instinctive response to a base stimulus such as hunger, the expression strips protesters of their intelligence, dignity, and clarity of purpose.

Indeed, although popular protest was virtually the only action available to the peasantry to contest important issues such as grain transport policies or increased taxation, its categorization as a popular "emotion" reinforced the peasantry's exclusion from the realm of legitimate political expression.

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