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Ralph Kingston on the Bourgeoisie and Bureaucracy in France, 1789–1848

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A Review Essay

image of Historical Materialism

Ralph Kingston, in Bureaucrats and Bourgeois Society, argues that government employees constituted the core of the French bourgeoisie in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book lends support to the Marxist interpretation of the Revolution, not as a breakthrough of a capitalist bourgeoisie, but as a conflict originating in a social structure whose economic surplus was appropriated politically. This review posits that the peasants’ subsistence strategies constrained the economic evolution of the country and led well-to-do families to invest in shares of governmental authority and careers in the civil service rather than in private enterprises. The slow economic growth and pursuit of state offices represent underlying continuities between the Old Regime and the nineteenth century. The notable changes resulted from the popular uprisings of 1789–93 and the rationalisation of the state apparatus during the revolutionary decade.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, University of Alabama at Birmingham


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