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10 - The republic of universal suffrage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2010

Biancamaria Fontana
Affiliation:
Université de Lausanne, Switzerland
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Summary

The republican idea acquired new meaning in France after 1830. It no longer designated a particular type of political system by referring only to the memory of 1792, nor by evoking the governments of ancient cities. Rather, it acquired a far more complex significance. Identified with the theme of universal suffrage, reference to the republic neatly concentrated a whole ensemble of social and cultural aspirations into a single word. The republic of universal suffrage implied, above all, the search for a society without divisions. Indeed the central problem of the first years of the July monarchy was that of social division. The onset of industrialisation widened schisms in the social fabric at the same time that the disappointment of the hopes raised by the 1830 Revolution aggravated political tensions. Such was the context in which the figure of the proletarian emerged. ‘The proletarian remains excluded’, summarised Blanqui in 1832. ‘Oh noble bourgeois, cease repelling us from your bosom, for we are men, and not machines’, demanded one of the first workers';journals, the Artisan, in 1830, while Lamartine wished that the name of the proletariat, ‘this base, injurious, pagan word [should] disappear from the language as the proletarian himself must disappear little by little from society’. The demand for universal suffrage, which emerged at the beginning of the July monarchy, was linked to this demand for social inclusion. In 1789, the demand for political equality had derived simply from the primary principle of civil equality: the essential struggle had been waged in the realm of civil rights, around the destruction of privilege and the suppression of legal distinctions between individuals.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1994

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