The French Political and Cultural Revolutions

****Response to Friday’s prompt that I was having issues posting
The transition from absolutism to enlightenment brought a new set of societal ideals that impacted both the political and social structure of France. By turning the hierarchical political system on its head, a significant cultural revolution was bound to accompany it.
Kant, in his analysis of enlightenment described it as man’s ability “to make use of understanding without direction from another” (Kant 1). This new emphasis on reason and self-reliance very directly confronts the old absolutist hierarchy, where everyone is reliant upon those higher in the social/political estate system. Similarly, Turgot also reflected on these changing principles by underlining the self-sufficient providers and farmers of the third estate as the most important part of society. This in hand with economic hardship and ideological influences from the American Revolution encouraged the third estate to fracture from the old absolutist system in favor of one where each individual voice had the opportunity to express his opinions.
France’s cultural revolution tailed on the heels of the countries crumbling political structure. As the estate system turned upside down, individuals began searching for their voice in the new system. During the absolutist regime the church was a huge part of the broken political system, so symbols of this past regime were abolished as quickly as possible. A new calendar was erected, churches were renamed, and names of former Kings and Queens were banned. This vast cultural upheaval was a direct reflection of the political upheaval that had just taken place. People simply wanted out with the old and in with the new. In this case, the old was marked by the church and monarchs and the new was marked by reason.
Another huge cultural phenomenon that was intertwined with the political revolution was a newly born French nationalism. In La Marseilles, a new French identity is expressed in lyrics such as “sacred love of the fatherland, guide and support our vengeful arms” (Modern History Source Book 1). People who had fought together suddenly identified with their fellow countrymen, and culture began taking on a French identity instead of a regional one. This would again connect with the political phenomenon of the former third estate having a say in political affairs; people had a reason to unite culturally after having united politically. Having a new voice in the system, those in the far corners of France suddenly felt more connected to the capitol.

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