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.

Domostroi 12-18

These chapter encompass the duties of men, concerning how to pray and how to conduct their wives, children and servants to be good christians. Perhaps more than anything else, men are encouraged to pray numerous times a day, including waking up in the middle of the night to do so. Men are to pray to god, christ and perhaps the most revealing of Russian culture, the Tsar and his royal family.  It is clear that men are supposed to pray and go to church far more than women, children and their servants, however they are also obligated to attend church when their duties allow them to. Singing and Silence appear in the chapters. as men should practice both with solitude. Silence, especially in the church in significant, in order to preserve a sense of calmness. Likewise, violence, pillaging and anger are prohibited. Could this be an influence from The Mongol Invasions, or is this just a common courtesy to the church? Also introduced in these chapters is the importance and devotion to the christian rosary, one must always have these near. Meals are meant to be a sacred part of the day, along with praying before and after one should reflect throughout the feast. Chapter fifteen emphasizes that a child, if god chooses to bless a couple with one, is meant to be raised by both and are obligated to love their kin. Towards the end of this section it is stated that a father should whip their sons so that in their older years they will be more happy. Is this rational?



Highly appropriately timed, since I am writing my essay on the double burden and it is our next discussion in class, is a NY Times article from the week about the Russian Orthodox patriarch condemning feminism.  He is quoted as saying it is dangerous for giving women an “illusion of freedom” when they should be focusing on their families and children.  As a 21st century woman, I find this notion extremely disturbing, but as a history scholar, I see this echoed throughout my research on the double burden.  In the early Stalinist period, women were discriminated against in the workforce because of this same patriarchal mindset, and even the women that wanted jobs were refused and told to go back to their husbands.  Of course I recognize that these ideas are commonly used by churches all over the world, but what I found even more off-putting was that the Patriarch works with the Russian president to ensure that the church is the guardian of Russia’s national values.  This official relationship between church and state is proving to be dangerous to women.

The Patriarch also claimed that the “pesudo-freedom” feminism encourages takes place outside the confines of marriage.  Here, I understand some of the historical significance of his claim.  Bolshevik officials after the revolution argued against marriage as a mutually exploitative economic endeavor and made divorce easier to obtain, which resulted in men leaving their wives easily and the women taking advantage of their alimony to live outside of marraige.  In the socialization of Russia, women were forced to work in the marginalized sectors of industry, which provided them with poor working conditions and little free time.  At the same time as working the night shift in a textile factory, for example, they had to get up early to take care of the children and feed their husband.  This resulted in what is called the “double burden,” which was responsible for high levels of work-related accidents among women and infertility, since the working conditions were chemically dangerous.  However, in an alternative twist on feminism, many women refused to leave these jobs because they provided the best wages and access to housing in order to support their families.  The government, especially after WWII, recognized this problem and sought measures to protect women within the work force, such as providing them maternity leave, but even though socialism required the equality of the sexes, women were pressured into assuming domestic and reproductive roles to help Russia rebuild.  The orthodox Patriarch is reminiscent of this stereotypically misogynistic and patriarchal past, putting all the pressure on women to preserve the homeland when the Soviet Union already proved that the assertion of traditional gender roles does nothing to contribute to modernization and results in the exploitation of the female population.