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The Longue Durée of the French Bourgeoisie

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Beginning with Engels, Marxist historiography viewed the absolute monarchy in France as mediating between the nobility and the emergent capitalist bourgeoisie. More recent Marxist accounts stress that the absolute monarchy reflected the interests of the nobility. Revisionist Marxist historians have taken this perspective to an extreme arguing that, at the height of the Bourbon monarchy in the seventeenth century, a capitalist bourgeoisie did not exist. This paper argues that, in taking such a view, these historians have ignored the ongoing dialectical opposition between the forces of rent and profit in the early-modern period. As a result, they have severed the connection between the ancien régime and the Revolution of 1789. Despite being thrown on the defensive by the advance of rent and the crystallisation of the absolutist state, a capitalist bourgeoisie that emerged in sixteenth-century France survived and persevered during the seventeenth century. It resumed the initiative in the succeeding period of the Enlightenment.

Affiliations: 1: University of Manitoba;, Email:


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