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Six The French Revolution as a World-Historical Event
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The French Revolution as a World-Historical Event

Immanuel Wallerstein

The significance or importance of the French Revolution has usually been analyzed in one of two ways: as an "event" in French history which has its course and consequences; or as a phenomenon that had a specific influence on the history of other countries. I wish in this chapter however to view the French Revolution as a world-historical event in the very specific sense of its significance and importance in the history of the modern world system as a world system.

As we know, the literature on the French Revolution of the last thirty years has reflected a gigantic intellectual battle between two principal schools of thought. On the one side, there has been the so-called social interpretation, of which Georges Soboul has been the central figure and which traces its lineage to Lefebvre, Mathiez, and Jaurès. This viewpoint has built its analysis around the theme that the French Revolution was essentially a political revolution of the bourgeoisie who were overthrowing a feudal Ancien Régime.

A second camp has emerged in "revisionist" criticism of the social interpretation of the French Revolution. This second camp has no accepted collective name. The two leading exponents of this view have been first Alfred Cobban and then François Furet. This camp rejects the concept of the French Revolution as a bourgeois revolution on the grounds that eighteenthcentury France can no longer be meaningfully described as "feudal." Rather, they suggest that it can better be described as "despotic" and the French Revolution seen as a political explosion of antidespotic libertarian demands.[*]


The key difference this makes in the analysis of the actual events revolves around the interpretation of the political meaning of the insurrection of 10 August 1792. For Soboul, this insurrection was a "second revolution" ushering in a democratic and popular republic. For Furet, it was exactly the opposite. It was the closure of the path leading to the liberal society. It was no doubt a second revolution, but one that represented not the fulfillment of the first but its dérapage . Thus, for Soboul, Robespierre and the Mountain represented the most radical segment of the French bourgeoisie and therefore a force for liberation; for Furet, Robespierre and the Mountain represented a new (and worse) despotism.

In this debate the lines are clearly drawn and are certainly familiar ones in terms of twentieth-century European politics. Indeed, as has often been said, this debate is as much an argument about the Russian Revolution as it is about the French Revolution. It is important nonetheless to see what premises are shared by the two camps in rhetorical battle. They both share a model of history that is developmental and which assumes that the units that develop are states. (The Atlantic thesis also shares this model.) For the social-interpretation school, all states go through successive historical stages, the most relevant transition in this case being that from feudalism to capitalism, from a state dominated by an aristocracy to one dominated by a bourgeoisie. Ergo, the French Revolution is simply the moment of dramatic or of definitive transition, a moment that was however both necessary and inevitable. For the "liberal" school, the process of modernization involves the renunciation of a despotic state and its replacement by a state founded on liberal principles. The French Revolution was an attempt to make this (not inevitable) transition, but one that was abortive. The drive to freedom remained latent in the French polity and would be resumed later. For Soboul, since the Revolution was bourgeois, it was the point of departure for liberal democracy in France. For Furet, after the dérapage, the Revolution became itself an obstacle to liberal democracy.

It is interesting to see, therefore, how each side treats the long war with Great Britain that began in 1792 and continued (with interruptions) until 1815, that is, long past the Jacobin period. For Soboul, the war was essentially launched from abroad by the French aristocracy who, losing the civil war, were hoping to recoup their position by internationalizing the conflict. For Furet, the war was desired by the revolutionary forces (or at least by most of them) as a way of pursuing the revolution and strengthening it.

No doubt one can make a plausible case for each of these explanations of the immediate origins of the war. What is striking is that there seems to be, in these analyses, no consideration of whether or not a Franco-British war might have occurred at this time in the absence of anything resembling an internal French revolution. After all, there had been three successive major


wars between Britain (or England) and France over a period of a century, and from the perspective of today we might think of the 1792–1815 wars as simply the fourth and last of these major wars in the long struggle for hegemony in the capitalist world-economy.

I shall briefly summarize here an analysis expounded at length in the first two chapters of volume 3 of The Modern World-System (1989) without the supporting data found in the book.[1] I do this merely as background for the argument I wish to make about the ways in which the French Revolution as a world-historical event transformed the world-system as a world system. I start with the assumption that the capitalist world-economy existed as an historical system since the "long" sixteenth century with boundaries that from the beginning included England and France, and that therefore both countries had been functioning for all this time within the constraints of a capitalist mode of production and had been members of the interstate system that emerged as the political framework of the capitalist world-economy.

Such a "world-systems perspective" leaves little room for the most fundamental assumptions of the two main scholarly schools concerning the French Revolution. The French Revolution could not have been a "bourgeois revolution" since the capitalist world-economy within which France was located was already one in which the dominant class strata were "capitalist" in their economic behavior. The "capitalists" in that sense had no need of a political revolution in particular states in order to gain droit de cité or to pursue their fundamental interests. This of course does not exclude the fact that particular groups of capitalists might have been more or less happy with the public policies of their states and might have been willing, under certain conditions, to consider political actions that ended up by being in some sense "insurrectionary," thereby changing the structures of given state institutions.

In contrast, the world-systems perspective gives equally little place to the underlying assumption of the revisionist school (or schools), who take as central a putative macro-struggle between the advocates of political despotism and the advocates of political liberalism within each state, and see a sort of vector of modernity in the drive for liberalism. "Liberalism" in a worldsystems perspective is seen rather as a particular strategy of the dominant classes utilizable primarily in core zones of the world-economy and reflecting among other things a lopsided intrastate class structure in which the working classes are a much lower percentage of the total population than in peripheral zones. At the end of the eighteenth century, neither England nor France yet had effective "liberal" institutional structures, and neither would have them for another century or so. The dérapage of 1792, if that is what one wants to call it, had no greater long-run significance than what might be thought of as the parallel dérapage of 1649 in England. Seen from the


perspective of the twentieth century, Great Britain and France are not significantly different in the degree to which "liberal" political institutions prevail in the two centuries. Nor are they significantly different from say Sweden, which had no dramatic set of events comparable to the English or French Revolutions.

What can be noted about England and France is that, once Dutch hegemony in the capitalist world-economy began to decline in the midseventeenth century, these two states were the competitors for the hegemonic succession. The competition could be seen in two principal arenas: in their relative "efficiencies" of operation in the markets of the world-economy, and in their relative military-political strengths in the interstate system.

In this long competition, 1763 marked the beginning of the "last act." The Peace of Paris marked Great Britain's definitive victory over France on the seas, in the Americas, and in India. But, of course, it simultaneously laid the bases for the acute difficulties that Great Britain (and Spain and Portugal as well) were to have with their settler populations in the Americas, and which led to the process of settler decolonization that originated in British North America and spread everywhere.

We know that the American War of Independence attracted eventually a French involvement on the side of the settlers which, in the 1780s, greatly aggravated the fiscal crisis of the French state. To be sure, the British state also faced great budgetary dilemmas. But the 1763 victory made it easier for the British to resolve these difficulties in the short run than for the French state. Witness, for example, the role of "Plassey plunder" in relieving British state indebtedness to the Dutch.

The French state found it politically impossible to solve their fiscal problem through new modes of taxation and had no access to the equivalent of Plassey plunder. This explains their willingness to enter into the AngloFrench Commercial (Eden) Treaty of 1786 to which the French king agreed in good part on the grounds that it would create new sources of state revenue. Its immediate impact was in fact economically disastrous and politically unnerving. The cahiers de doléance were full of complaints about the treaty.

If one looks at the comparative efficiencies of French and British agricultural and industrial production in the eighteenth century, it is hard to make a case for any significant British lead. As of 1763, the French were if anything "ahead." But despite the fact that the economic realities were very similar, at least up to the 1780s when Britain was perhaps doing a little better, it is true that there was an (incorrect) perception in France after 1763 of France "falling behind." This was probably an illusion whose elaboration became a rationalization for the military defeat of 1763. There seems to have been a similar illusion prior to 1763 among the English that they were "behind" France, an illusion apparently effaced after 1763. In any case, this


sense on the part of the French-educated strata helped also to create the justification for the Eden Treaty.

When the king convened the Estates-General, the general atmosphere (the defeat of 1763, the fiscal crisis of the state, the error of agreeing to the Eden Treaty, all compounded by two successive bad harvest years) created the political space for the "runaway" situation we call the French Revolution, a "runaway" situation that basically did not end until 1815.

One could say that the period 1763–1789 in France was marked by an unwillingness of French elites to accept defeat in the struggle for hegemony with Great Britain, exacerbated by a growing feeling that the monarchy was unwilling or unable to do anything about the situation. The wars of 1792–1815 were therefore part of the fundamental logic of the French revolutionaries, seeking to restructure the state so that it would be capable of finally overcoming the British foe.

From the strictly relational perspective of the Franco-British struggle in the interstate system, the French Revolution turned out to be a disaster. Far from permitting the final recouping of the defeat of 1763, France was beaten militarily more definitively in 1815 than it ever had been, because this time the defeat was on land, where French military strength lay. And far from allowing France to overcome the previously largely fictive economic gap with Great Britain, the wars created this gap for the first time. In 1815 it was true to say, as it had not been in 1789, that Great Britain had a significant "efficiency" lead over France in the production of goods for the world markets.

But were there not at least significant internal economic transformations in France as a result of the Revolution? When the dust settled, it turned out that the transformations were less startling than is often asserted. The larger agricultural entities for the most part remained intact, although no doubt there was some change in the names of the property owners. Despite the presumed "abolition of feudalism," such constraints on "agricultural individualism" (to use Marc Bloch's phrase) as vaine pâture and droit de parcours survived until late in the nineteenth century. The yeoman class (such as the laboureurs ) emerged stronger than before, but largely at the expense of the smallest producers (such as the manoeuvriers ). The agricultural reforms were at times noisy, but they fit into a slow steady curve of parallel change in much of western Europe over several centuries.

As for industry, guilds were abolished to be sure. And internal tariffs disappeared, thereby creating a larger unfettered internal market. But let us not forget that before 1789 there already existed a zone without internal tariff barriers, the Five Great Farms, that included Paris and was approximately the size of England. The Revolution did of course revoke the Eden Treaty and France once again, quite sensibly, returned to protectionism. The state


did acquire a new administrative efficiency (the linguistic unification, the new civil code, the creation of the grandes écoles ), which no doubt was very helpful to France's economic performance in the nineteenth century.

But from a strictly French point of view, the balance sheet of the French Revolution is relatively meager. If it was the "exemplary" bourgeois revolution, this doesn't say much for the value or the force of such revolutions. As a struggle against despotism, we have the word of the theorists of this position that it did not turn in a stellar performance. Of course, we could celebrate it on Tocquevillian grounds: the French Revolution was France's fulfillment of its state-creation, the achievement of bureaucratic centralization that Richelieu and Colbert sought but never quite completed. If so, one might understand French celebration of this event as the incarnation of French nationalism, but what should the rest of us celebrate?

I believe there is something for the rest of us to note, and perhaps to celebrate, if somewhat ambiguously. I believe the French Revolution and its Napoleonic continuation catalyzed the ideological transformation of the capitalist world-economy as a world-system , and thereby created three wholly new arenas or sets of cultural institutions that have formed a central part of the world-system ever since.

We must begin with the perceived meaning of the French Revolution to contemporaries. It was of course a dramatic, passionate, violent upheaval. In what might be called its primary expression, from 1789 (the fall of the Bastille) to 1794 (Thermidor), the Great Fear occurred, "feudalism" was abolished, church lands were nationalized, a king was executed, and a Declaration of the Rights of Man was proclaimed. This series of events culminated in a Reign of Terror, which finally ended with the so-called Thermidorian Reaction. Of course, dramatic events did not cease then. Napoleon came to power and French armies expanded throughout continental Europe. They were greeted originally in many areas as carriers of a revolutionary message, and then came to be rejected later in many areas as bearers of a French imperialist drive.

The reaction everywhere in Europe among the established authorities was one of horror at the undermining of order (real and potential) represented by the French revolutionary virus. Efforts to counter the spread of these ideas and values were implemented everywhere, and most notably in Great Britain where a very exaggerated view of the strength of possible sympathizers led to an effective repression.

We should note in particular the impact of the French Revolution (including Napoleon) on three key zones of the "periphery" of the world-system: Haiti, Ireland, and Egypt. The French Revolution's impact on St.-Domingue was immediate and cataclysmic. The initial attempt of White settlers to capitalize on the Revolution to gain increased autonomy led rapidly to the first


Black revolution in the world-system, a Black revolution which, over the succeeding decades, all other players (Napoleon, the British, the White settler revolutionaries in the United States and in Latin America) sought in one way or another to destroy or at least contain.

The French Revolution's impact on Ireland was to transform what had been an attempt by Protestant settlers to gain autonomy (as had the analogous group in British North America) into a social revolution that for a time drew together both Catholics and Presbyterian Dissenters into a common anticolonial movement. This attempt, hitting at the very heart of the British state, was turned aside, undermined, and repressed, and Ireland was all the more closely integrated with Great Britain by the Act of Union of 1800. The result however was to create an endemic internal political issue for Great Britain throughout the nineteenth century, its equivalent mutatis mutandis of the U.S. political issue of Black rights.

In Egypt, the Napoleonic invasion resulted in the emergence of Egypt's first great "modernizer," Mohamed Ali, whose program of industrialization and military expansion seriously undermined the Ottoman Empire and almost established a powerful state in the Middle East capable eventually of playing a major role in the interstate system. Almost, but not quite—Mohamed Ali's efforts were eventually successfully checked, as were all similar efforts in the periphery for a century.

To all of this must of course be added the settler decolonization of the Americas. No doubt, this was not the doing (alone) of the French Revolution. The American War of Independence predated the Revolution. But its sources lay in the same post-1763 restructuring of the geopolitics of the world system, and it made appeals to the same Enlightenment doctrines to legitimate itself as did the French Revolution. The Latin American independences of course then came in the wake of the same geopolitical restructuring, reinforced by the successful models of both the American and French Revolutions, plus the devastating political consequences of Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808 and the abdication of the Spanish monarch.

All in all, it added up to a political whirlwind of a kind that had never been known before in the modern world. Of course there had been previous periods of turmoil, but their impact had been different. The English Revolution no doubt shared many features with the French Revolution—in England. But its effect outside of England was quite limited, in large part because there was no "Napoleonic" conquest associated with it. And no doubt the Reformation-Counterreformation turmoil was every bit as wrenching as the French revolutionary turmoil. But it was not focused around issues of political order, and the ultimate outcome, although involving real political restructuring, seemed not to raise questions about the political legitimacy of rulers and governmental structures per se.

I think the bourgeoisie, or if you prefer the capitalist strata, or if you prefer


the ruling classes, drew two conclusions from the "French revolutionary turmoil." One was a sense of great threat, not from what might be done by the Robespierres of the world, but from what might be done by the unwashed masses who seemed for the first time to be contemplating seriously the acquisition of state power. The French Revolution proper had several times almost "gotten out of hand" not because some "bourgeois" were seeking political changes but because some "peasants" or some "sans-culottes" or some "women" began to arm themselves and to march or to demonstrate. The Black slaves of St.-Domingue did more than demonstrate; they actually seized state power, a political development that turned out to be even more difficult to contain and turn back than the rebellions in France.

These "uprisings" might of course be assimilated analytically to the recurring food riots and peasant uprisings of prior centuries. I believe the world bourgeoisie perceived something different was occurring, that these "uprisings" might better be conceived of as the first truly antisystemic (that is, anti-capitalist-system) uprisings of the modern world. It is not that these antisystemic uprisings were terribly successful. It was simply that they had occurred at all, and that therefore they were the harbinger of a major qualitative change in the structure of the capitalist world-system, a turning point in its politics.

The world bourgeoisie thereupon drew, I believe, a second and very logical inference. Constant, short-run political change was inevitable, and it was hopeless to maintain the historical myth used by previous world-systems and indeed even by the capitalist world-economy up to that point, that political change was exceptional, often short-lived, normally undesirable. It was only by accepting the normality of change that the world bourgeoisie had a chance of containing it and slowing it down.

This widespread acceptance of the normality of change represented a fundamental cultural transformation of the capitalist world-economy. It meant that one was recognizing publicly, that is expressively, the structural realities that had in fact prevailed for several centuries already: that the world-system was a capitalist system, that the world-economy's division of labor was bounded and framed by an interstate system composed of hypothetically sovereign states. Once this recognition became widespread, which seems to me to have occurred more or less in the period 1789–1815, once this discourse prevailed, three new institutions emerged as expressions of and responses to this "normality of change." These three "institutions" were the ideologies, the social sciences, and the movements. These three institutions comprise the great intellectual/cultural synthesis of the "long" nineteenth century, the institutional underpinnings of what is sometimes inaptly called "modernity."

We do not usually think of ideologies as institutions. But this is in fact an error. An ideology is more than a Weltanschauung . Obviously, at all times and places, there have existed one or several Weltanschauungen that have deter-


mined how people interpreted their world. Obviously, people always constructed reality through common eyeglasses that have been historically manufactured. An ideology is such a Weltanschauung, but it is one of a very special kind. It is one that has been consciously and collectively formulated with conscious political objectives. Using this definition of ideology, it follows that this particular brand of Weltanschauung could only be constructed in a situation in which public discourse accepted the normality of change. One needs to formulate an ideology consciously only if one believes that change is normal and that therefore it is useful to formulate conscious middle-run political objectives.

Three such ideologies were developed in the nineteenth century—conservatism, liberalism, and Marxism. They were all world-systemic ideologies. It is no accident that conservatism was the first to emerge institutionally. It is clear that the new recognition of the normality of change posed urgent dilemmas to those of a conservative bent. Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre saw this clearly and quickly. They saw they needed to make an intellectual case for the slowest possible pace of change. But more importantly, they realized that some kinds of change were more serious than others. They gave priority therefore to preserving the structures that in turn could serve as brakes on any and all precipitate reformers and revolutionaries. These were of course the structures whose merits conservatives lauded: the family, the "community," the church, and of course the monarchy. The central motif of conservative ideology has always been "tradition." Traditions are presumed to be there, and to have been there for an indefinitely long time. It is argued that it is "natural" to preserve traditional values because they incarnate wisdom. Conservative ideology maintains that any tampering with traditions needs a strong justification. Otherwise, disintegration and decadence follow. Hence conservative ideology is the incarnation of a sort of Cassandra-like cultural pessimism, inherently defensive in nature. Conservatives warn against the dangers of the change that now has become considered normal. The short-run political implications may vary enormously, but in the middle run conservatism's political agenda is clear.

Liberalism is the natural ideology of normal change. But it needed to become an ideology only after conservatism had emerged. It was English Tories who first called their opponents "liberals" in the early nineteenth century. To be sure, the idea of the individual's right to be free from the constraints of the state has a long history that predates this moment. The rise of the absolutist state brought in its train the advocates of constitutional government. John Locke is often considered the symbolic incarnation of this line of thought. But what emerged in the nineteenth century was liberalism as an ideology of consciously enacted reform, and this did not really exist in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. This is also why I believe the oftcited difference between early nineteenth-century "minimal state" liberalism


and late-nineteenth-century "social state" liberalism misses the point. The exponents of both had the same conscious political agenda: legislative reform that would abet, channel, and facilitate "normal change."

Marxism then came along quite late as the third ideology of the nineteenth-century world. Perhaps some would prefer to think of socialism as the third ideology. But over time the only variety of socialist thought that became truly distinguishable from liberalism as an ideology was in fact Marxism. What Marxism did, as an ideology, was to accept the basic premise of liberal ideology (the theory of progress) and add to it two crucial specifications. Progress was seen as something realized not continuously but discontinuously, that is by revolution. And in the upward ascent to the good or perfect society the world had reached not its ultimate but its penultimate stage. These two amendments were sufficient to produce an entirely different political agenda.

It should be noted that I have not discussed the social bases of these different ideologies. The usual explanations seem to me too simple. Nor is it at all clear that the emergence of these three ideologies depended on specific social bases, which is not to say that there has been no historic correlation between social position and ideological preference. What is important is that the three ideologies were all statements about how to deal politically with "normal change." And they probably exhausted the range of possibilites for plausible ideologies to be institutionalized in the nineteenthcentury capitalist world-economy.

Political agendas are only one part of what one needs to deal with "normal change." Since these agendas represented concrete proposals, they required concrete knowledge of current realities. What they needed in short was social science. For if one didn't know how the world worked, it was difficult to recommend what one might do to make it work better. This knowledge was more important to the liberals and Marxists since they were in favor of "progress," and thus they were more prone than the conservatives to encourage and frequent social science. But even conservatives were aware that it might be useful to understand reality if only in order to conserve (and restore) the status quo (ante).

Ideologies are more than mere Weltanschauungen; social science is more than mere social thought or social philosophy. Previous world systems had had social thinkers, and we still today benefit by reading them, at least some of them. The modern world-system was of course the heir of a so-called Renaissance of (especially) Greek thought and built on this edifice in many ways. The rise of the state structures, and in particular of the absolutist state, led to a special flourishing of political philosophy, from Machiavelli to Bodin to Spinoza, from More to Hobbes and Locke, from Montesquieu to Rousseau. Indeed this was a stellar period in the production of such thought, and nothing quite matches it in the post-1789 era. Furthermore, the middle and


late eighteenth century saw the emergence of work in economic philosophy almost as rich as the political philosophy: Hume, Adam Smith, the Physiocrats, Malthus. One is tempted to add: Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx.

But none of this represented the institutionalization of social science. Social science, as it came to be defined in the nineteenth century, was the empirical study of the social world with the intention of understanding "normal change" and thereby being able to affect it. Social science was not the product of solitary social thinkers but the creation of a collective body of persons within specific structures to achieve specific ends. It involved a major social investment that was never previously the case with social thought.

The principal mode of institutionalizing social science was by differentiation within Europe's traditional university structure which, by 1789, was virtually moribund. The universities, which at that point in time were scarcely vital intellectual centers, were still largely organized in the traditional four faculties of theology, philosophy, law, and medicine. There were furthermore relatively few universities. In the course of the nineteenth century, there occurred a significant creation of new chairs, largely within the Faculty of Philosophy, to a lesser extent within the Faculty of Law. These chairs had new names and some of them became the forerunners of what today we call "departments."

At first it was not clear which "names" of putative "disciplines" would prevail. We know the outcome, however. By the end of the nineteenth century, six main "names" had survived and more or less become stabilized into "disciplines"—anthropology, economics, geography, history, political science, and sociology. They had become institutionalized not only within the university system, now renewed and beginning again to expand, but also as national scholarly associations, and in the twentieth century as international scholarly associations.

The "naming" of the disciplines—that is, the structure of the presumed division of intellectual labor—reflected very much the triumph of liberal ideology that was (and is) the reigning ideology of the capitalist worldeconomy. This also explains why Marxists were suspicious of the new social science, and why conservatives have been even more suspicious and recalcitrant.

Liberal ideology involved the argument that the centerpiece of social process was the careful delimitation of three spheres of activity: those related to the market, those related to the state, and those that were "personal." The last category was primarily residual, meaning all activities not immediately related to the state or the market. Insofar as it was defined positively, it had to do with activities of "everyday life"—the family, the "community," the "underworld" of "deviant" activities, and so forth. The study of these separate spheres came to be named political science, economics, and sociology. If political science was the last name to be accepted, it was primarily the result


of an archaic jurisdictional dispute between the Faculties of Philosophy and of Law, and not because the operations of the state were deemed less worthy of study. All three of these "disciplines" developed as universalizing sciences based on empirical research, with a strong component of "applied science" attached to them.

Parallel to this, the "name," history, was manifestly redefined. This is the great transformation represented by the work of Ranke. Ranke's great critique of what had been previously produced under the "name" of history is that it was too "philosophical," insufficiently "historical." This is the import of writing history wie es eigentlich gewesen ist . History had really occurred. What had happened could be known, by turning to the "sources" and reading them critically. The history that now became institutionalized was rigorously idiographic.

Three things are to be noted in the emerging institutionalization of these four so-called disciplines, as they developed in the nineteenth cnetury. First, they were concerned primarily, almost exclusively, with a few core countries of the capitalist world-economy. Second, almost all scholars worked on materials concerning their own country. Finally, the dominant mode of work was empirical and concrete, even though for the three so-called nomothetic disciplines (economics, sociology, political science) the object was said to be the discovery of the "laws" that explained human behavior. The nationally based, empiricist thrust of the new "disciplines" became a way of circumscribing the study of social change that would make it most useful for and supportive of state policies, least subversive of the new verities. But it was nonetheless a study of the "real" world based on the assumption that one could not derive such knowledge deductively from metaphysical understandings of an unchanging world.

The nineteenth-century acceptance of the normality of change included the idea that change was only normal for the civilized nations, and that it therefore was incumbent on these nations to impose this change on the recalcitrant other world. Social science could play a role here, as a mode of describing unchanging customs, thereby opening the way to understanding how this other world could be brought into "civilization." The study of the "primitive" peoples without writing became the domain of anthropology. The study of the "petrified" peoples with writing (China, India, the Arab world) became the domain of Orientalism. For each field the academic study emphasized the elements that were unchanging but was accompanied by an applied, largely extra-university domain of societal engineering.

If the social sciences became increasingly an instrument of intelligent governance of a world in which change was normal, and hence of limiting the scope of such change, those who sought to go beyond the limits structured by the world bourgeoisie turned to a third institution, the movements. Once


again, rebellions and oppositions were not new. They had long been part of the historical scene, as had been both Weltanschauungen and social thought. But just as Weltanschauungen now became ideologies and social thought became social science, so did rebellions and oppositions become antisystemic movements. These movements were the third and last of the institutional innovations of the post-1789 world-system, an innovation that really emerges only after the world revolution of 1848.

The essential difference between the multiple prior rebellions and oppositions and the new antisystemic movements was that the former were spontaneous, short-lived, and largely uncoordinated beyond the local level. The new movements were organizations, eventually organizations with bureaucracies, which planned the politics of social transformation. They worked in a timeframe that went beyond the short run.

There were to be sure two great forms of such antisystemic movements, one each for each main theme of the "French revolutionary turmoil" as it was experienced throughout the world-system. There were the movements organized around the "people" as working class or classes, that is, around class conflict, what in the nineteenth century came to be called first the social movement, then the socialist movement. And there were the movements organized around the "people" as Volk , as nation, as speakers of a common language, what came to be known as the nationalist movements.

This is not the place to recount the arduous but effective institutionalization of socialist and nationalist movements as state-level organizations seeking state power within the states in which they were located or which they intended to establish. It is the place to note that, despite their appeal to "universal" values, the movements as they were constructed were all in effect state-level structures, just as the social sciences, despite their appeal to "universal" laws, studied de facto phenomena at the state level. Indeed, it was only the ideologies, of the three new "institutions," that managed to institionalize themselves somewhat at the world level.

What then can we say has been the true legacy of the French revolutionary turmoil? It clearly transformed the "cultural apparatus" of the worldsystem. But it did so in an extremely ambiguous way. For, on the one hand, one can say that it permitted the efflorescence of all that we have come to associate with the modern world: a passion for change, development, "progress." It is as though the French revolutionary turmoil allowed the worldsystem to break through a cultural sound barrier and permit the acceleration of the forces of "change" throughout the world that we know occurred.

But, on the other hand, the French revolutionary turmoil, by creating the three great new institutions—the ideologies, the social sciences, the movements—has created the containment and distortion of this process of change and simultaneously has created the blockages of which the world has become


acutely conscious in the last twenty years. The post-1789 consensus on the normality of change and the institutions it bred has now at last ended perhaps. Not in 1917, however, but rather in 1968.

If we are to clarify our options and our utopias in the post-1968 worldsystem, perhaps it would be useful to reread the trinitarian slogan of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, fraternity. It has been too easy to pose liberty against equality, as in some sense the two great interpretations of the French Revolution have done, each interpretation championing if you will one half of the antinomy. Perhaps the reason that the French Revolution did not produce either liberty or equality is that the major powerholders and their heirs have successfully maintained that they were separate objectives. This was not, I believe, the view of the unwashed masses.

Fraternity meanwhile has always been a pious addition, taken seriously by no one in the whole long post-1789 cultural arena, until in fact 1968. What the "normality of change" has been interpreted, by all and sundry, to mean has been the increased homogenization of the world, in which harmony would come out of the disappearance of real difference. We have of course discovered the brutal fact that the development of the capitalist worldeconomy has significantly increased the economic and social disparities and therefore the consciousness of differences. Fraternity, or to rename it in the post-1968 manner "comradeship," is a construction to be pieced together with enormous difficulty, and yet this fragile prospect is in fact the underpinning of the achievement of liberty/equality.

The French Revolution did not change France very much. It did change the world-system very much. The world-scale institutional legacy of the French Revolution was ambiguous in its effects. The post-1968 questioning of this legacy requires a new reading of the meaning of the popular thrusts that crystallized as the French revolutionary turmoil.

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