French Revolution Political and Cultural Ties

During the French Revolution, the political philosophies and the cultural identity of the people were very closely intertwined. Both influenced by the internalized philosophies of the Enlightenment, the transformations in each category was an attempt to influence the other. It is most apparent of these ties when looking at direct examples of revolutionary culture, and how basic elements of daily life transitioned so that even the smallest changes reflected the desired political philosophies.
The influences of the Enlightenment showed a mentality shift towards reason and progress- to Frenchmen at the time, this meant stepping away from the monarchy and towards democracy. Reason was represented through the presence of Greek culture – the birthplace of democracy- and showed their support of a new form of governing. Exemplified in revolutionary dress, there was a shift towards wearing more Greek- like clothing- embracing the average dress of those within a democratic state. Their progress meant that in daily culture any representation of the monarchy was removed so that nothing showed approval of that system. Simple games of chess, cards, and even names of children shifted in society so that no kings or queens were mentioned. Similarly, in attempts to rebrand the nation, new flags and festivals were created (such as Revolution Day). This obvious cultural transition was simultaneously a political statement- intertwining the use of culture as protest.
Enlightenment philosophies also displayed themselves in the acceptance of religion at the time.  Just as the nation was rebranded with new flags and festivals as its representation, so was religion remarketed to the public with deism. Robespierre needed to accomplish this so that he could use religion to connect with the people- allow them to accept the Enlightenment philosophies of science, yet not neglect the cultural undertones of religion that perpetually exist.
Essentially, the connections between the political and cultural elements of the French Revolution can be seen through Enlightenment principles. As both categories became more and more influenced by them, they simultaneously tried to use them to alter French society as a whole.


2 thoughts on “French Revolution Political and Cultural Ties

  1. This synthesis of two traditional revolutionary principles certainly became crucial to re-branding the three estates of French culture. The Third Estate took charge of revolutionary politics and weakened the nobility that they so resented. (the Code Civil France uses today reflects the people’s hatred of the nobility and royalty; Napoleon himself helped write it. Meanwhile, history tends to forget the nobles that did support the revolutionaries.)

    Incidentally, this disposal of royal traditions seems rather similar to American anti-French sentiment during the early 2000s when they refused to support the United States’ initiative to invade Iraq.

    Source on the Code Civil: Wick, Daniel L. “The Court Nobility and the French Revolution: The Example of the Society of Thirty.” Eighteenth-Century Studies. 13.3 (1980): 263-284. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

  2. The French Revolution is always looked at solely as a political revolution, but, as you have stated, it must be thought of in a cultural context. Without looking at the culture people lose a large chunk of the most interesting parts of the revolution. It is easy to just say that they removed the monarchy from images but speaking about chess and playing cards takes that information much deeper. Without the cultural aspect the French Revolution can fall into history but when included it becomes a vibrant part of the world.

Comments are closed.