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2 - Abolishing Feudalism

from Part I - France

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2023

Wim Klooster
Affiliation:
Clark University, Massachusetts
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Summary

This chapter explores the constitutional ramifications of the French Revolution’s transformation of the old regime of property. It reinterprets the abolition of feudalism as part of the revolutionaries’ larger attempt to draw a conceptual and legal line of demarcation between property and power. Their double aim was to make property truly private by stripping from it all attributes of public authority and to make power truly public by eliminating its former patrimonial characteristics. The attempt to implement this demarcation in practice was still underway decades after the Revolution had formally ended feudalism. Over time, it largely succeeded. From this distinction between property and power flowed some of the key conceptual binaries – the political and social, state and society, public and private, sovereignty and property – through which we still apprehend the world. The abolition of feudalism was thus much more than simply the eradication of an archaic form of property. Rather, it played an essential role in shaping the conceptual building blocks from which modernity was built.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Abolishing Feudalism
  • General editor Wim Klooster, Clark University, Massachusetts
  • Book: The Cambridge History of the Age of Atlantic Revolutions
  • Online publication: 18 October 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108599405.005
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  • Abolishing Feudalism
  • General editor Wim Klooster, Clark University, Massachusetts
  • Book: The Cambridge History of the Age of Atlantic Revolutions
  • Online publication: 18 October 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108599405.005
Available formats
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To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Abolishing Feudalism
  • General editor Wim Klooster, Clark University, Massachusetts
  • Book: The Cambridge History of the Age of Atlantic Revolutions
  • Online publication: 18 October 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108599405.005
Available formats
×