Violence of the french revolutionary era

What happens when political power is exercised through emotion, intuition, and gut feeling (including religious faith), rather than through reason and logic? Or vice-versa? What are the pros and cons?

Please read and answer the above question

The violence of the French Revolutionary era, the ideologies of the Enlightenment passing through the fire, the powerful reaction against the traumatic decades just passed: all these factors roiling together produced the new ideology known as “Romanticism.” It began as a literary and artistic movement, rejecting everything the Enlightenment stood for – instead of logic and reason, emotion and intuition; in place of the clear and linear, the dark and labyrinthine.

This was the age of “Frankenstein” and Byron and Shelley, Delacroix and Goethe, the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” – works and artists that would have been laughed at in the eighteenth century – or at least dismissed as sappy, gloomy or pretentious. (the painting above shows what Picasso thought Frankenstein’s monster looked like . . . hmmm.) The greatest of all Romantic poets and artists, William Blake, spoke for many people with his eerie images of the enthronement of Reason and Machine. “Art is the tree of life,” Blake wrote. “Science is the tree of death.” The image at right is Blake’s “Mind-Forg’d Manacles” – the title explains itself.

Read the text for explanations of nationalism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism. Anarchism is also a product of this period, though the textbook gets to it a little later. All these “isms” were products of the “Romantic” frame of mind, in spite of their vast differences.

Characteristics of this new way of political thinking

  • Utopianism – a belief that the world can and should be made a better place. Romantic thinkers often had wonderful ideas about a better world, but no idea how to get there.
  • Distrust of logic and reason – the new political ideologies would often appeal to gut feelings and emotion . Think about Hitler’s charisma and today’s debates over abortion rights or gun control.
  • Nationalism – believe it or not, this didn’t exist before the 19th century. You might have been loyal to the “king of England,” but not to “England.” All modern political ideologies have played on nationalism and its psychotic form, “patriotism.” More about this in the next chapter, as we look at how new nations were being organized.
  • The use of history to brainwash people, not educate them.
  • Mixing political ideas that are inconsistent with each other (see bullet 2 above). For example, claiming to believe in democracy and individualism but also in the “community” or the “Volk” (again, Hitler).
  • Hero worship or personality cults: the belief that a “great man” (rarely a woman) can embody the will of the people. The last 200 years has been full of these larger-than-life characters and their worshipful followers: Napoleon, Queen Victoria, Bismarck, Abraham Lincoln, Mussolini, Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, Churchill, MaoTse-tung. Look at the newspaper and maybe you can think of a few more.

The new “isms” (read the chapter!)

  • Nationalism – a particular group with a shared heritage and language should be self-governing because it is unique and special — but we will look at this in the next chapter.
  • Liberalism – government should be minimal, and you should have the right to live as you please – as long as you don’t interfere with other people’s right to live as they please.
  • Utopian socialism – the economy should be “leveled,” that is, no one should be really rich or really poor – this can be done by having the state own and plan the economy (as opposed to capitalism, where the economy is privately owned and not regulated, causing more and more wealth to accumulate in the hands of fewer and fewer people). The term was coined by Marx, who meant it negatively.
  • Anarchism – both government and capitalism should be abolished, and everyone should have a voice in establishing society’s rules — that is, pure democracy. (Anarchism is not “anarchy” or chaos.)
  • Conservatism – protect the status quo, be very cautious about any changes. Capitalism is the best economic system and representative democracy or constitutional monarchy are the best governments (it’s dangerous to put power directly into the hands of the people).

Later, growing out of these isms but not flowering until the twentieth century:

  • Marxism and all its variants – history is a record of the struggle between “haves” and “have-nots,” capitalism, once good for building the economy, has now become oppressive; the next stage will be an uprising of exploited workers who will take power and the economy into their own hands (the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and “public ownership of the means of production).
  • Fascism and its racist variantNazism – the individual exists to serve the state, not vice-versa; society is like an organism and all ‘troublemakers’ must be ruthlessly suppressed, as the body suppresses a virus; one great leader speaks for all, just as the brain speaks for the body.

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