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Corporations Républicaines: The Revolutionary Idiom of Parisian Workers in 1848

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2009

William H. Sewell
Affiliation:
Institute for Advanced Study
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Extract

When the insurrection of February 1848 chased Louis-Philippe from the throne and brought a provisional republican government to power, the Parisian workers who had made the insurrection suddenly found themselves at the center of the political stage. As the heroes and victors of the revolution, they immediately won important concessions: the declaration of the right to work (the ‘droit au travail’), the opening of the National Workshops, and the establishment of the Luxembourg Commission—a body composed of representatives of all the capital's trades, chaired by the socialist theorist Louis Blanc, which was to discuss the organization of labor and make proposals to the government. The workers responded to this revolutionary situation with a monumental outpouring of words and action, attempting to construct a new social and political order based on labor and its rights. In this paper I shall try to describe and interpret one prominent feature of the workers' projects for revolutionary transformation: their use of language and of organizational forms that were apparently borrowed from the corporate system of the old regime.

Type
Continuity in Working-Class Concerns
Copyright
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 1979

References

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies in Berkeley, California, in April 1977. I am currently preparing a larger study on the conceptual and institutional framework of labor in France from the old regime to 1848. This paper is a preliminary report on that study.

1 This view informs nearly all of the older synthetic histories of the French labor movement, e.g. Dolléan, Edouard, Histoire du mouvement ouvrier, 3 vols. (Paris, 1936-1953);Google ScholarDolléans, and Dehove, Gérard, Histoire du travail en France: mouvement ouvrier et legislation sociale, 2 vols. (Paris, 1953-1955);Google ScholarLefranc, George, Histoire du mouvement ouvrier en France des origines á nos jours (Paris, 1947);Google ScholarLouis, Paul, Histoire du mouvement syndical en France, 2 vols. (Paris, 1947).Google Scholar The best recent synthetic essay on the French labor movement is Moss, Bernard H.. The Origins of the French Labor Movement; The Socialism of Skilled Workers, 1830–1914 (Berkeley, 1976). While his interpretations challenge earlier accounts on many grounds, Moss agrees with them in seeing no significant continuity with the corporate system of the old regime.Google Scholar

2 The best source for the revolutionary workers' discourse is Gossez, Remi, Les Ouvriers de Paris, book one, L'Organisation, 1848–1851, vol. 24 of the Bibliothéque de la Revolution de 1848 (La-Roch-sur-Yon, 1967).Google ScholarLes Murailles révolutionnaires de 1848. prefaced by Alfred Delvau (Paris, 1868),Google Scholar 2 vols, also has a great deal of valuable material. However, such recent collections of documents as Agulhon, Maurice, Les Quarante-Huitards (Paris, 1975)Google Scholar and Roger Price, 1848 in France (Ithaca, N.Y., 1975) contain very few documents relevant to the arguments presented in this paper.Google Scholar

3 The best description of the workers' efforts to consititute new corporations is Gossez, , Les Ouvriers de Paris.Google Scholar

4 Ibid., p. 156.

5 That tacit tarifs were very common can be documented by examining George, and Bourgin, Hubert, eds. Le Régime de l'industrie en France de 1814 à 1830: Les patrons, les ouvriers et l'état. Recueilde textes. 3 vols. (Paris, 1912-1941);Google ScholarAguet, J. P., Les Grèves sous la monarchic de juillet (1830–1847): Contribution a l'étudedumouvement ouvrier français (Geneva, 1954);Google Scholar and Associations professionnelles ouvrièrs, 4 vols. (Paris, 1894-1904), published by the French governments' Office du travail.Google Scholar

6 See Gossez, , Les Ouvriers de Paris, pp. 6787, 268–74.Google Scholar

7 Quoted in ibid., p. 213.

8 Perhaps the best-documented example of such continuity is Vial, Jean, La Coutume chapeliere: hisloire du mouvement ouvrier dans la chapellerie (Paris, 1914).Google Scholar See also Chauvet, Paul, Les Ouvriers du livre en France, 2 vols. (Paris, 1959);Google ScholarBezucha, Robert J., The Lyon Uprising of 1834: Social and Political conflict in the Early July Monarchy (Cambridge, Mass., 1974), esp. pp. 147;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Scott, Joan W., The Glassworkers of Carmaux (Cambridge, Mass., 1974), esp. pp. 1952.Google Scholar For Marseille, see Sewell, , ‘Social Change and the Rise of Working-Class Politics in Nineteenth-Century Marseille,’ Past and Present 65 (1974), esp. 8182, 9192, 104–05.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 Moss, Bernard H., French Labor Movement, pp. 41–8.Google Scholar

10 Gossez, , Les Ouvriers de Paris, pp. 198–99.Google Scholar

11 Ibid., pp. 239–42.

12 On the journees, see Duveau, George, 1848 (Paris, 1965),Google Scholar and Gossez, , Les Ouvriers de Paris, pp. 1920, 3739, 174, 244–47, 265.Google Scholar

13 Gossez, , Les Ouvriers de Paris, pp. 249–57.Google Scholar

14 Ibid., p. 23.

15 Ibid., p.225.

16 Les Murailles révolulionnaire, 1, 286.Google Scholar

17 Moss, , French Labor Movement.Google Scholar

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