Compass of Society: Commerce and Absolutism in Old-Regime by Henry C. Clark

By Henry C. Clark

Compass of Society rethinks the French path to a notion of 'commercial society' within the 17th and eighteenth centuries. Henry C. Clark unearths that the improvement of marketplace liberalism, faraway from being a slender and summary ideological episode, was once a part of a broad-gauged try to deal with a few perceived difficulties universal to Europe and specific to France in this interval. in any case, he bargains a neo-Tocquevillian account of an issue which Tocqueville himself notoriously underemphasized, particularly the emergence of components of a latest economic climate in eighteenth century France and where this improvement had in explaining the failure of the outdated Regime and the onset of the Revolution. Compass of Society will reduction in knowing the conflicted French engagement with liberalism even as much as the twenty-first century.

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It is not the least of the ironies of old-regime France that the characterization of the monarchy as “absolute,” which was used by contemporaries and thus has a certain claim on our attention, is, in fact, a relative term. I have found the term to be both flawed and indispensable. For an orientation to the literature, see works by William Beik, Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-Century France: State Power and Provincial Aristocracy in Languedoc (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); James Collins, The State in Early Modern France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); and David Parrott, Richelieu’s Army: War, Government, and Society in France, 1624—1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

Rebecca Balinski (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994) for a redefinition. 22 When “liberal” was used at all, it tended to mean either the sorts of nonmechanical studies composing the “liberal arts,” or the moral quality of generosity, both of which are rooted in the Roman concept of the free man. I COMMERCE AND COHESION IN THE LONG SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 1 Social Trust and Nascent Globalism Commerce in Early Seventeenth-Century France INTRODUCTION France in the early seventeenth century was widely perceived as, and may actually have been, what modern commentators might call a low-trust society.

Morally, there was the pervasive suspicion that France was what recent theorists might call a “low-trust” society. French commentators from at least the early seventeenth century on were troubled by the apparent lack of cohesion in their society. How to render an essentially mistrustful and mutually suspicious people sufficiently unified was a durable problem throughout the seventeenth century and beyond. While the partisans of absolute monarchy saw the mystique of dynastic grandeur as the principal solution to this problem, others, aided by a moraliste tradition that had validated the pursuit of self-interest, or impressed by the Dutch model of commercial republicanism that appeared intermittently throughout the seventeenth century, began to see trade as itself a potential source of the kind of cohesion the French people needed.

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