“The publicization of social life” is how one might summarize in a phrase a manifold and variegated but unidirectional change undergone by French society and culture in the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries. “Publicization” was the process of the private becoming public, just as “privatization” is the process of the public becoming private. Privatization may refer to people’s either ceasing to participate in certain activities, withdrawing from the social and political in favor of the individual, or continuing to do the same activities but transferring them to a setting away from general scrutiny. The Western world has experienced both kinds of privatization in the late twentieth century. In the United States, fewer and fewer people have voted in elections, a form of withdrawal from public life. In France and other countries of Western Europe, certain economic activities have been transferred from the government—back—into private hands. But the eighteenth century was an age of publicization. Activities that had formerly been restricted to only a few people or to widely dispersed people, who had conducted them in their own residences or in other places with severely limited access, were opened up to or taken up by large numbers of people and conducted in concentrated groups meeting in nonresidential sites, sites of relatively free access and often established for the specific purpose of carrying on one particular activity.
In the United States, Alexis de Tocqueville is best known for De la démocratie en Amerique, but in France he is equally well known for L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution. In the latter book he shows that in some important ways the French Revolution did not break with the past as decisively as the revolutionaries and most observers, whether friendly or hostile, believed it did. For example, the centralization of power, so brutally completed by Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, had actually been underway for centuries and “the Revolution consummated suddenly…what would have been consummated gradually, by itself, in the long run.”  Likewise, in its advancement of the publicization of social life the Revolution only accelerated an already well-established trend.
The Revolution abolished privilege—privus lex, or private law—and created a republic—a res publica, or public thing. It replaced a system based on the special political and legal prerogatives of a few people acting apart with a system based on the political will and legal equality of masses of people acting in common. In Les Origines intellectuelles de la révolution française, Daniel Mornet contends that a spirit of debate and criticism gradually permeated the educated classes of French society during the eighteenth century and that this permeation was one of the causes of the Revolution. At the same time, the arena of argument gradually expanded. An ever greater number of people began discussing an ever greater variety of social concerns, concerns that formerly they had either not had or not expressed, but had relinquished to the king and his ministers. Mornet also found cafés in Paris, academies in the provinces, and public lecture series, literary societies, libraries, Masonic lodges, and newspapers throughout France proliferating in large numbers during the eighteenth century. The French were respiring the increasingly charged atmosphere of critical discourse in these increasingly numerous and, to varying degrees, public places. The progress of the spirit of debate was taking place in tandem with the progress of publicization. Meanwhile, power remained concentrated in the private hands of the king. But in 1789 King Louis XVI suddenly and unwittingly gave political form and impetus to the intellectual movement by convoking the Estates General, a three-tiered assembly that had not met for 175 years and that consisted of elected representatives of every social class. The French Revolution, writes Mornet, was one “in which if not the majority, at least a very large minority, more or less enlightened, discerned the faults of a political regime, articulated the profound reforms it wanted, and then converted public opinion little by little and acceded to power more or less legally.”  Mornet may or may not convincingly demonstrate a causal connection between the general diffusion of critical discourse in France and the outbreak of the French Revolution, but he does demonstrate the publicization of that discourse during the eighteenth century, and the publicization of political power after 1789 is incontestable.
Economic activity also underwent publicization during the eighteenth century. The Bourse, the Paris stock exchange, was founded in 1724. Even large business ventures had formerly been undertaken by an individual or at most a few capitalists, but in the eighteenth century they began to be financed through shares sold to the public. And these transactions were assigned to a fixed public site in, successively, an old palace, a church, the Palais-Royal, and finally today’s Bourse, a building erected in the early nineteenth century for just this purpose. According to the economic historian Ernest Labrousse, “from 1750, and particularly from 1780, joint-stock companies spread, into coal mining, metallurgy, spinning, banking, and maritime insurance. The Journal de Paris and the Gazette de France published the quotations.” 
The French Revolution accelerated the publicization of economic activity by abolishing craft guilds, licensed monopolies, and internal tariffs. The Old Regime’s guild system had privileged the craft masters, who ruled all the workers in the craft—that is, regulated their apprenticeship, admission, and promotion, their practice of the craft—and also maintained their exclusive right to practice the craft. The Old Regime’s system of licensed monopolies had given the holders of monopoly patents, or privilèges, the exclusive right to engage in certain activities in certain places; for example, the Académie Royale de Musique, generally referred to as the Opéra, had the exclusive right to give public performances of music in Paris. The Old Regime’s system of internal tariffs had privileged local producers of goods. The revolutionaries’ abolition of these three systems of economic regulations opened a whole range of craft, business, performance, publication, and market opportunities to a broad public.
Paris was becoming a public city in the eighteenth century. Several of its largest outdoor open spaces took shape then. The Champs Elysées was extended and lined with trees in the 1710s and again in the 1770s. The Champ de Mars, first a military parade ground, later also used for civilian gatherings, was laid out, and the Jardin du Roi, the royal botanical garden, later renamed the Jardin des Plantes, was doubled in size, both around mid-century. The Jardin du Luxembourg was expanded by the revolutionaries and then expanded again by Napoleon. Both the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Jardin des Tuileries, which had been opened to the public in the late seventeenth century, were enclosed in walls until the early nineteenth century, when Napoleon ordered the walls demolished and replaced with less-forbidding grillwork.
The Jardin des Tuileries adjoins the Louvre, which may be taken to exemplify the process of publicization in indoor spaces. The Louvre—including the wing called the Tuileries, originally a separate palace, then connected to the Louvre, finally destroyed—was built over the course of several centuries by a succession of kings for their own use. During the eighteenth century, Kings Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI allocated a series of rooms in it to the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture for artists’ quarters and for the biennial Salon, the academy’s exhibition of new works. Finally, at the end of the eighteenth century the revolutionaries converted it into a permanent public art museum.
Indoor public spaces, both those conceived in physical terms, such as exhibition and performance halls and cafés and restaurants, and those conceived in social terms, such as concert and lecture series and clubs and societies, proliferated all over France at an increasing rate as the eighteenth century progressed. Mornet found both literary societies and public libraries already existing in the provinces in the first half of the century. However, “after 1760, and particularly after 1770, it’s as if there is a contagion of societies” and “it’s particularly after 1770 that the number of these libraries multiplies.” 
Slowly during the first three-quarters of the eighteenth century and then more rapidly in the last quarter of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century, Paris was becoming the great public entertainment capital that it still is today. In the first of these two seventy-five-year periods, large numbers of people gathered for diversion on three Paris fairgrounds, those of the Saint-Laurent Fair, which ran all summer long, and the Saint-Ovide Fair, which ran from mid-August to mid-September, on the Right Bank; and on the Left Bank the Saint-Germain Fair, one of the great fairs of Europe, which ran during February and March. The fairs offered a variety of inexpensive foods to taste and a variety of inexpensive shows to see. They fell victim to their own success, for after midcentury a sort of permanent fair grew up along the Boulevard du Temple, where one could get lemonade, coffee, or wine, see a multiplicity of games of skill, wax figures, strong men, trained animals, and demonstrations of popular science all year round, and in comfortable and attractive cafés and halls, not just temporary stands. The attractions of the Boulevard du Temple gradually extended into the Boulevard Saint-Martin and eventually became the core of the lengthy public promenade known as the Grands Boulevards. In the 1780s the rebuilding of the Palais-Royal led to the creation of another permanent fair in and around that old palace, its long wings housing cafés, pastry shops, bookstores, little performance halls and exhibition spaces, and its large courtyard serving as the meeting place for the transaction of speedier or shadier business. The heyday of the Boule-vard du Temple as a center of public entertainment lasted longer than the heyday of the Palais-Royal, which was confined to, and therefore more distinctive of, the Age of Revolution.
A dramatic manifestation of the process of publicization was the spectacular burgeoning of theater. In the eighteenth century, three institutions, the Comédie-Française, the Comédie-Italienne, and the Opéra, had a legal monopoly on the professional performance of plays in Paris. Other professional groups, which gave their performances first at the fairs, then after mid-century in newly erected permanent theaters on the Boulevard du Temple, and finally toward the end of the century in the Palais-Royal, avoided the prohibition against them in various ways. Some paid the Opéra to extend its privilège to them for a specific number of years. Others exploited loopholes in the wording of the privilège, presenting plays with marionettes, child actors, or silent adult actors holding up placards containing their lines. Still others simply ignored the law and, thanks to tolerant authorities such as Lieutenant-General Sartine, the same police chief who allowed the publication of the Encyclopédie, for a while did it with impunity. In the 1760s, just as competition from the unprivileged theaters began to intensify, attendance at the Comédie-Française, one of the privileged theaters, began to set records. In early 1791 the revolutionaries abolished the system of privileges, and the number of professional theaters in Paris jumped from fifteen to thirty-five within the year. All together at least forty-five new theatres opened during the Revolution, although many closed after a short time. Amateur theater likewise expanded during the second half of the eighteenth century, spreading from the royal court to the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie to the working classes. By the end of the century, wrote a chronicler of the Paris stage, “people were acting in wine bars, in cafés, in basements, in attics, in stables, in sheds,” and amateur theatrical groups in the capital numbered more than two hundred.
During the eighteenth century the population of Paris hardly grew at all, remaining between about 525,000 and 550,000. During the first half of the nineteenth century the population of Paris more than doubled, from about 550,000 in 1801 to about 1,300,000 in 1851. Seeing these demographic figures makes one think of the conventional population bomb, but learning about the multiplication of Paris’s theaters, or the octupling of its public reading rooms from 23 in 1819 to 198 in 1845, or the vigintupling of its public bathtubs from 200 in 1789 to 500 in 1816 to more than 4,000 in 1839, compels one to imagine a publicization explosion of socio-nuclear power.
Virtuosity developed in these public spaces, both physical and social, that were so rapidly propagating. Chess emerged from private residences into the cafés of Paris, the first of which opened in the 1670s; by 1723 there were around 380 of them; by 1788 around 1,800; by 1807 around 4,000. Late in his life, Philidor mentioned that when he had first started playing chess in Paris cafés the game was played in a great many of them, which suggests that the momentum of its publicization may have helped to propel his own increasing interest in it. With regard to virtuosity in chess, we have already observed the central role of one of the first Paris cafés, the Café de la Place du Palais-Royal, later known as the Café de la Régence.
After the outbreak of the French Revolution, restaurants and pastry shops began to reproduce as fast as or faster than cafés. The number of restaurants in Paris quintupled between 1789 and 1803, from a total of approximately one hundred to approximately five hundred, and more than quintupled again between 1803 and 1820, by which time the total had reached nearly three thousand. As for patisseries, Carême says that before the Revolution there were few, although he gives no figure, in contrast to the 258 of them in business in 1815. Few historical developments are clearer than the publicization of dining during the Revolution. Whereas the aristocrats had dined in one another’s homes, the revolutionaries dined in cafés, taverns, and restaurants, and the cooks of the former became the cooks of the latter. Thus, politics carried cuisine along with it in its migration from the private to the public sphere. This development exerted a strong influence on Carême’s early career, providing him with employment opportunities in a tavern, a restaurant, Bailly’s well-known patisserie just north of the Palais-Royal, and Gendron’s equally well-known patisserie inside that public entertainment cynosure.
Before the Revolution the Opéra had a double privilège—in theater, in which it shared its public performance monopoly with two other institutions, and in music, in which its monopoly was total, at least legally. For just as rival groups of thespians found ways of circumventing the prohibition against them, so too did rival groups of musicians. Like the directors of some other theaters, those of the Opéra-Comique, where Philidor’s music first won recognition, simply paid a tribute to the Opéra. The older half-brother of Philidor who founded two early public concert series in Paris, the Concerts Spirituels and the Concerts Français, did likewise. Presenting concerts every year from its inception in 1725 until 1790, the Concerts Spirituels turned out to be the most successful series of the eighteenth century. A fugue of public concert series developed from the Opéra’s privilège in the 1770s and 1780s when music lovers organized themselves into nominally private “concert societies” to which they paid annual membership dues. Such was the origin of, for example, the Concerts des Amateurs (Music-Lovers’ Concerts), the Concerts des Amis (Friends’ Concerts), and the Concerts de la Loge Olympique (Olympic Lodge Concerts). This last series, as its name suggests, was staged by a Masonic lodge, and shows the sometimes quasi-public character of Freemasonry, for attendance at the concerts was not restricted to Masons. Freemasons debated social and political issues at their meetings, and a prominent school of Revolution historiography considers these meetings precursors of the meetings of the political clubs and elective assemblies of the first French Republic. Even in fields as dissimilar as music and politics, the vector of publicization was sometimes the same. Masonic lodges in Paris reproduced from half a dozen in the 1730s to 170 in 1771, remaining at about that number until the Revolution brought about their replacement by other social spaces.
The advent of a public space in Europe for music, the public concert, enabled Paganini to make the leap from court attendant, his position in Lucca at the beginning of his career, to touring virtuoso, his role when he appeared on stage after stage throughout Italy and, eventually, in Austria, Bohemia, Poland, Germany, France, and Great Britain as well. In Paris he ultimately had his own public concert space, briefly, in the short-lived Casino Paganini. Liszt, born three decades later, appeared frequently in public right from the beginning of his career. The number of concert venues in Paris had multiplied so much by Liszt’s time that at least two of them, the Salle Érard and the Salle Pleyel, could specialize in piano music, becoming crucibles of keyboard skill.
A variety of small theaters and halls devoted to what are usually categorized as entertainments rather than fine arts also materialized in Paris during the Age of Revolution. Intricate automata and seamless illusions were contrived for the amusement of eighteenth-century princely courts, but the golden age of stage magic had as its setting first rented exhibition halls and then performer-designed and -owned theaters for the public, such as the Théâtre des Jeunes-Acteurs of Comte, the Palais des Prestiges of Phi-lippe, and the Théâtre Robert-Houdin.
In many cases, the publicization of an activity encouraged a separation of people into performers and spectators or, where that separation already existed, encouraged a widening of it. For example, when chess was taken from private residences into cafés, the best players gradually attracted other café-goers around their tables, turning the players into performers and the others into spectators. In contrast to chess, music had a long history of being played in front of an audience. Still, the distance between the musician and his audience increased with the migration of concerts from aristocratic salons to concert halls: The musician climbed onto a stage; the occasion rigidified into a formally structured event; the audience lapsed into passivity.
On the one hand, the publicization of political and economic life, culminating in the Revolution, favored the elimination of privileges and con-sequently the amalgamation of privileged and unprivileged people into a single group. On the other hand, publicization also favored the separation of people into performers and spectators, two distinct groups. And the performers, at least the most successful among them, eventually acquired a disproportionate share of wealth and power and thus became a new privileged elite. But neither wealth nor power was the basis of the privileges of the new elite’s membership. Rather their wealth, like the wealth of the new society’s entrepreneurs, and their power, like the power of the new society’s politicians, derived from their ability to please the public.