Society, Theory and the French Revolution

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This is a very different book about the French Revolution of 1789-94. The concern is less with a change in society than a change in the relation that a society establishes with itself. Here the focus is on society's presentation (and representation) considered not simply from the perspective of a few privileged intellectuals, but as a social and historical process inseparable from the institution of society's political dimension. Through a close reading of the revolutionary texts of the period, the author is able to trace behind the surface of events and conflict themes of a more abstract, fundamental character - themes relative to the 'discovery' of society, the construction of the nation-state, and what for the revolutionaries was the scandal of their separation. While retaining a fidelity to the eighteenth century, this book opens up new theoretical perspectives that illuminate the character of both a certain revolutionary heritage and a more general political modernity.