How was the old regime political unequal

The great Victorian synthesizers, such as Morgan, Tylor and Frazer, stood on the shoulders of predecessors motivated by an urgent desire to make world society less unequal. Jean-Jacques Rousseau deserves to be seen as the source for an anthropology that combines the critique of unequal society with a revolutionary politics of democratic emancipation. Young political anthropologists are breaking new ground in Southern Europe and elsewhere around the world.

I hope to get more pointers to relevant reading on recent directions in anthropological research from this seminar. I will speak in English, but read and understand French. Your email address will not be published. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. This was the case in particular of the study carried out by the Institut national d'études démographiques in the s on marital fertility in the four quarters of France at the end of the ancien régime: the apparent finding was of an uneven and diffuse decline along a self-given course with a speed-up toward David R.

Weir, while situating the transition in the revolutionary decade on the ba. Weir thus denies any immediate causality between political revolution and demographic transition while not denying that the two might be related. InPierre Chaunu, fervent partisan of the très longue durée approach to fertility change, called for "an end to the false debate over the Revolution" Chaunu,p.

For all that, a few dissidents had nursed this false debate before it rebounded. The study published in by Gautier and Henry on the Normandy parish of Crulai showed that the Revolution had coincided exactly with "an abrupt fall in fertility from birth control within marriage".

Rightly interpreting this as evidence of a "major modification of behaviour", the authors noted: "The fact that this modification was achieved very quickly, under the effect of the shock of the Revolution, suggests that people were mentally prepared to accept it" Gautier, Henry,pp. By this reasoning, though, a shock effect on people mentally prepared to accept it would no longer be a shock effect.

Ina study of three villages in Ile-de-France revealed an abrupt onset of fertility decline "around or " and the author of the study asked cautiously: "Is this to be seen as a consequence of the revolutionary legislation on inheritance? Such a consequence would have run ahead of the legislation, which in any case had no equivalent whatever in the parallel process occurring in America. Inan analysis of the "fertility revolution" at Meulan noted — without elaborating the point — that "the decisive stage coincided with the political Revolution" Dupâquier, Lachiver,p.

One of its authors, Jacques Dupâquier, seeing these coincidences multiply as further monographic studies were published, drew the conclusion that the Revolution had had some sort of impact on fertility, though without being precise about what it might have been And inAlain Blum wondered as follows about a possible "primacy of the event":. The only aspect of this causality that emerges clearly is an obsessive fear — specifically French — of the fragmentation of land holdings, which had no equivalent at all in America where frontiers were open to all, yet where fertility decline followed the same course.

A phobia of the event, the primacy of the event — both attitudes are equally unsuited to account for the interrelated effects of a single radical ferment that was both critical and creative, by which I mean the political and family revolutions which in both France and America originated in the same spirit of rejection and renewal. An Edmund Burke or a Friedrich von Gentz, observing the two political revolutions from the outside, could contrast the one with the other in every respect without departing too far from the facts.

Nonetheless the two revolutionary peoples as such felt solidarity with each other, starting with their shared rejection of any obedience not freely consented. Adolphe Landry, writing decades before any of the detailed studies of what he himself named the "demographic revolution", identified its links with the political revolution:. The same spirit of the age that rejected the ancestral patriarchal authority in the political sphere also rejected it in the domestic sphere. Women take the initiative.

In the passage quoted above Landry used the old masculine-unisex convention that "men" with revolutionary inspiration sought to regulate their reproduction according to their preferences. Use of the generic term appears particularly inappropriate in this case — for isn't reproduction more women's business than men's?

This question takes me back to the theory about the American transition which with minor qualifications has been accepted, at least tacitly, by most American historians. Not that they necessarily had to do much arm twisting to achieve this end'27 — no woman could impose contraception or even abstinence without at least a minimum of cooperation from her husband any more than she could compel a reluctant husband to father a child. According to Smith, what American women obtained from their husbands during the fertility transition was less frequent rather than interrupted intercourse "coitus interruptus [ The contrary appearance in France may be an artifact of the sources most widely used in France, novelists having little interest in marital abstinence and priests caring less about it than about the "sin of Onan"'29'.

Not in doubt is that the revolutionary ideology emboldened American women in their relations with their husbands who in turn were somewhat disarmed, if not actually won over. Carl N. Degler has explored it from a psychological angle:.

Of these newly self-conscious women none expressed this idea better than one old-fashioned mother who in a diary entry from the s noted that one of her daughters who had just given birth to a dead son "may pass through, if she lives, the same excruciateing trouble a year the sooner for this loss".

Then, concerning another daughter, exhausted after a sixth birth:. The fact that the first two demographic revolutions were concomitant with the first two democratic revolutions suggests that the causal relationship identified for the American case should also be found in the French case. A study on the role of abortion in the French fertility transition did show how French women, having failed to organize themselves to demand equal citizenship rights with men, "simply took matters into their own hands [ Inthe French National Convention prohibited women from forming any public association lest it cause them to sacrifice the care of their families "to which they are called by nature" Archives Parlementaires,p.

The Paris municipal council went even further by reminding female protesters of "shameless Olympe de Gouges [ Thus in France, as in America, "the Revolution accentuated the definition of public and private spheres, promoted the family, differentiated gender roles by contrasting political men and domestic women" Perrot,p. Hunt,p. Put back in their place, French women could assert themselves there fully, even if the revolutionary legislation to end the patriarchal family proved to be short-lived.

Such self-assertion was overdue. At the end of a pioneering study on the origins of contraception in France, Philippe Aries asked "whether repugnance at repeated pregnancies was not at first an exclusively feminine sentiment, unknown to and ignored by men" Aries,p. In France, however, the Age of Enlightenment was the age of "alcove secrets" and. Nonetheless, from the material assembled by Bergues — and also from littérature galante which she did not examine — it is clear that in the eighteenth as in the seventeenth century, it was mainly women in France who imposed or urged adoption of contraception' Of the confessors quoted by Bergues, Père Féline, who was the closest to the lower social orders, denounced in his Catéchisme des gens mariés of "husband's excessive indulgence for their wives", adding with a clear canonical conscience, "They have made themselves too sensitive to complaints by their wives about how much childbearing costs them" Bergues, b, p.

Other clerical testimonies apportioned blame for the deplorable initiative equally between husbands and wives see, for example, Gouesse, But no matter, the essential point is that for the Church "submission was required of wives in all circumstances" Gouesse,p. Prior toa wife wishing to resist an insensitive husband could find little or no support outside of herself. I may inadvertently have implied that the new attitude which viewed reproduction within marriage as a matter of free choice, won over most of the French male and, especially, female population in the s.

In truth, this attitude was linked to a revolutionary outlook which never commanded universal support and which suffered a serious reversal after the Terror. Furthermore, it was not expressed openly; indeed, in their public utterances, the women of the revolution usually extolled childbearing for the Nation Proctor,pp. But a relatively small number of individual refusals of further pregnancy was in fact enough to trigger the process of fertility decline that spread within the closed community formed by France.

If the average completed fertility of married French women stood at around six children at the end of the ancien régime, it only needed one in five of them to refuse to have more than three children for the transition of the s to occur. As an indication, compared with French women married beforefully a quar. According to calculations by David R. A violated taboo: from shame to guilt.

First and foremost, however, this transition had a moral dimension. Western morality had always sought to confine procreation to marriage. Equally, the production of children was the obligatory price of marriage, a duty preferably to be performed as such and not voluptuously. Erotic joy was acceptable only in free rider 3 relations — fornication, adultery, prostitution — the favoured domain for the methods and tools for avoiding conception.

The idea of enjoying marital sex without procreating put even libertinism to shame. One might be tempted to ascribe this conjugal morality prevailing in ancien régime France — half sacred carnal duty, entirely carnal servitude — to the combined influence of Church and State, at one on the imperative character of the conjugal duty of spouses. We thus have to recognize the existence of a deep-rooted subjective constraint.

The fertility transition signified that couples ignored this constraint not only far more frequently than in the past but henceforth quite deliberately. There had of course always been some couples, albeit proportionally few in number, who had deliberately restricted births without accepting sexual abstinence. In littérature galante the "fatal secrets for cheating nature" were employed only in extra-marital adventures, but they were capable of subverting conjugal duty on occasion and being admitted to later in the confessionaK They were indelibly associated with the illicit, the forbidden, and with transgression; this was.

Be that as it may, in both cases the moral barrier was in place — as much for those who circumvented it as for those who discharged their marital duty properly. The revolutionary spirit alone could begin to bring that moral barrier down. Neither new means, nor new motivations, the distinctive characteristic of the transition was thus — as Pierre Goubert put it, while distancing himself from the idea by use of inverted commas — "a sort of 'liberation' from old 4aboos'" Goubert,p.

It would be more precise to say from a double taboo inherent in marriage — a taboo on its hedonistic abuse and on its intentional sterility. The transmission of the new "family planning" mentality from parents to children, its advertisement by the example of less burdensome maternity, the greater survival of children from smaller families, the growing awareness among women of their independence and equality, at least in the sphere of private life, the greater considerateness of husbands for their wives whether with good or bad grace, the gradual decline of the stigma of infertility — none of this is problematical except inasmuch as France was the only country in Europe to experience it before the s, whereas it spread rapidly across the entire continent thereafter.

To break a taboo is certainly not the same as to liberate oneself from it. Above all, an entire nation does not abandon a taboo overnight — rejection is gradual, occurring from one generation to the next.

This conjugal taboo is today obsolete, but the generation which infringed it in Europe beginning in the s experienced the repercussions in the classic form of a guilt crisis.

This emerges clearly in the fictional writing of the period, which presents an obsessively negative view of the new-style family Binion, Should not France then have already experienced these repercussions in the post-revolutionary period, during the Empire and, later, the Restoration, even though no such family guilt can be detected in literary or other sources?

The question is crucial for anyone who wants to get down to the living substance of history. Moreover, the question applies as much to America as to France — and once again it is an American study which also supplies an answer for France. I refer here to a key study by John Demos in which he distinguishes two morality regimes succeeding one another in New England.

The first was shame-based and regulated the conscience of Puritan colonists until around ; the second was guilt-based and replaced the former around Demos, The intermediate period, qualified by Demos as "largely obscure" Demos,p. Under the regime of shame, the supreme moral sanction was the reproving. The subsequent moral regime replaced this by the subjective inner eye, the purely personal conscience — individuals saw themselves as guilty, and could even be consumed by internal scruples, without regard for the world around them.

At first sight, the abundant documentation Demos provides for colonial New England seems issued from a moral universe poles apart from that of pre-revolutionary France. However, the moralizing formulas of ancien régime France contain no more evidence of an inner sense of guilt than were forthcoming from Demos' American colonists, merely — and at least as frequent — allusions to disgrace, immodesty, shame, opprobrium, dishonour, and sinning before God.

The concept of guilt was still applied only to the actual fact of guilt without denoting the inner feeling, often unwarranted moreover, of having lapsed or transgressed. This primacy of shame in ancien régime France elucidates the preference for birth spacing over early birth stopping: it betrayed less the furtive practice of marital contraception. The first women who stopped childbearing from overtly proclaimed principle had to answer for it before their fellow citizens, and ultimately before God, rather than to their own consciences.

Indeed, this taboo was still being felt in France when the rest of Europe in turn began to challenge it in the s. A deep-seated biological revolution: the trend to unisexuality. Discussing a taboo that was violated before being eliminated is to invoke psychohistory, and that takes us back to Marc Bloch, who specified in conclusion to his Apologie pour l'histoire: "Historical facts are, in essence, psychological facts.

Normally, therefore, they find their antecedents in other psychological facts". On the subject of these psychological facts. Bloch hastened to make clear his thinking: "However, there can be no psychology which confines itself to pure consciousness", and he called for an exploration of the mental life of the past down into "its obscure depths" Bloch,p. So let us adopt the perspective advocated by Bloch and reconsider the egalitarian and antipatriarchal spirit that took hold in wife-husband relations during the two great revolutions that ushered in the contemporary era — is this an adequate causality for the associated fertility decline?

Yes, if we limit our attention to the phenomenon of "depopulation" isolated from what followed. But development of this egalitarian and antipatriarchal spirit in the domestic context marked the beginning of a major upheaval in relations between the sexes which has since spread throughout the West, getting stronger each year and tending to undermine traditional male primacy in the public sphere, while breaking down the established differences between the sexes in domestic and professional roles, as well as in dress, hairstyles, ornamentation, even in ways of making love.

To see the taking of control over their own fertility by women at home as the starting point for this on-going revolution is to raise the question of whether the supposed initial cause was not in reality the effect, or in other words, whether the egalitarian and antipatriarchal spirit that came to the fore in the home when American and French women took decisive control over their reproductive perdre les graisse du ventre rapidement 90 only reflected the early stirrings of a slow transformation of human sexuality, of a biological revolution in the longue durée whose course is to be tracked in "its obscure depths" using an analysis founded not on demography but, as Marc Bloch would have wanted, on psychohistory.

Our investigation has thus led us to recommend a new direction for research in demographic behaviour. In the human species as in other species, it is obvious that fertility rates reflect collective determinants operating at a much deeper level than that of individual decisions concerning reproduction and sexuality. Identifying these determinants is a major task for historical demography in the future.

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