New PDF release: Compass of Society: Commerce and Absolutism in Old-Regime
By Henry C. Clark
Compass of Society rethinks the French path to a notion of 'commercial society' within the 17th and eighteenth centuries. Henry C. Clark unearths that the advance of marketplace liberalism, faraway from being a slim and summary ideological episode, used to be a part of a broad-gauged try and tackle a few perceived difficulties known to Europe and specific to France in this interval. in spite of everything, he bargains a neo-Tocquevillian account of a subject matter which Tocqueville himself notoriously underemphasized, specifically the emergence of components of a contemporary economic system in eighteenth century France and where this improvement had in explaining the failure of the previous Regime and the onset of the Revolution. Compass of Society will reduction in figuring out the conflicted French engagement with liberalism even as much as the twenty-first century.
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Extra info for Compass of Society: Commerce and Absolutism in Old-Regime France
2 Trust, mutual dependence, and a common infrastructure for basic necessities—all were absent or weak in this period. Relatedly, as French historians well know, the age-old hostility toward the merchant had not by any means died out by the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. 4 But it was still thought that merchants’ work had a debasing effect on their souls, and on the society that gave them too much latitude. ”6 At the same time, France was willy-nilly becoming part of a more complex web of economic interdependence.
Morally, there was the pervasive suspicion that France was what recent theorists might call a “low-trust” society. French commentators from at least the early seventeenth century on were troubled by the apparent lack of cohesion in their society. How to render an essentially mistrustful and mutually suspicious people sufficiently unified was a durable problem throughout the seventeenth century and beyond. While the partisans of absolute monarchy saw the mystique of dynastic grandeur as the principal solution to this problem, others, aided by a moraliste tradition that had validated the pursuit of self-interest, or impressed by the Dutch model of commercial republicanism that appeared intermittently throughout the seventeenth century, began to see trade as itself a potential source of the kind of cohesion the French people needed.
My interest in this subject began with a sense of puzzlement over the gulf that seemed to separate the language used by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers and that deployed by all but a few of the commentators I had consulted on the topic. It was in reading some of J. G. A. Pocock’s essays in Virtue, Commerce, and History,6 especially his discussion of “commercial humanism,” that I first realized there was a different and better way of thinking about these materials. Indeed, the project began as little more than an attempt to flesh out what a French tradition of “commercial humanism” in this period might look like.
Compass of Society: Commerce and Absolutism in Old-Regime France by Henry C. Clark