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Modernity which is on some occasions referred to as the modern age is a historical period that is characterized by an ensemble of social and cultural practices, attitudes and norms which were popular during the age period of Renaissance which is also referred to as the Age of Reason. This period is also referred to as the period of enlightenment, and it is thought to have ended after the second world war in 1945. The definition of modernity or modern age has often been unspecialized because of the misrepresented or excluded aspects which shaped this period. In a bid to develop a proper understanding of modernity it is essential to find a movement or an ideology which played a significant role in shaping the modern age, there is also need to incorporate the aspects of gender, race, culture, classes and other ideologies in understanding modernity. This is because, through the considerations of these aspects, it is possible to select a movement that shaped the way the modern era is perceived. In this case, we will be looking at the role which the French Revolution played in shaping the modern age. Many arguments have been developed stating that the French Revolution played the most critical role in shaping the modern age revolution; it is considered as the revolution which gave birth to modernity. Through the French Revolution, we can be able to understand the role that the aspects of culture, race, and ideologies and the way they shaped the modern age. We can also be able to understand the "other" which is commonly excluded from the unspecialized definition of modernity. When viewing the French Revolution as an inclusive view of modernity, we can see many different aspects through distinctive cultures, races, and ideologies.
The French Revolution has always been considered to be the genesis of the dramatic transition that led to the era of modernity. During the 20th century, the Revolution was viewed as the paradigm for the era of modernity and most of the occurrences which happened during this time got their inspiration from the French Revolution. The revolution was initially perceived by looking at the various class struggles which existed before the revolution. However, there were problems with interpreting the revolution this way. This is because, through this interpretation, it was not possible to determine the way power was obtained and the way that it was held. The French Revolution indicated an end to the institutions and actions which had grown to be a norm during the medieval period. Some of the institutions which were popular during the medieval period included, churches whose operations were supported by the state, monarchies, serfdom, and aristocracies which were entrenched, these institutions were either weakened or overturned by the new ideologies which led to the French Revolution. Unlike the other revolutions, for instance, the American Revolution and the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution had an explicit change on the way things were done in the country of France. The revolution changed the way agrarian France was being administered and the organization of different institutions in the government. The society was transformed from one which was based on hierarchy and privilege to a society which was a rational, secular, bureaucratic and industrial modern state which fits in the modern era. Because of this view, the French Revolution is viewed as the perfect movement which led to the birth of modernity. However, there are other aspects which are often excluded in the unspecialized definition of modernity that we can be able to see from the French Revolution. One of these aspects is the aspect of the race. In the various research works which have been conducted in the past century regarding the French Revolution, the issues of slavery and colonialism were generally neglected. It should be noted that one of the main reasons which led to the French Revolution, was the establishment of institutions which ensured that all people enjoyed equal rights. However, this was not the case for individuals who were a slave and those who were under the institutions of serfdom. All other individuals under the French leadership were accorded with equal rights but not the slaves (Popkin 113). However, there was a change when the Societe des Amis des Noirs which is also referred to as the Society of the friends of blacks raised concerns about slavery. Giving equal rights to slaves and people from other races was the way that modernity could be achieved, this is because one of the primary focus of modernity was to make sure that there was no a prioritization of individualism. Even though some French planters found ways of using their slaves at home, the state had banned the use of slaves, this way ensuring that all individuals had been accorded equal rights. Treating all individuals equally was a positive step towards modernity (Wig 333). Through this ideology which had been adopted by the French Revolution, we can be able to develop an understanding of how the movement shaped the initialization of modernity.
However, some of the slaves who were under the French men were still taken away to be misused in slavery. Through this, a hindrance in the process of transitioning to modernity can be seen. This is a step back because as we have seen from above, one of the main features which characterize the idea of modernity is making sure that all individuals are treated in an equal manner. However, in this case, some of the individuals in society were not treated in an equal manner. During birth, all individuals are born equal, however, because of the societal differences which exist in the society, as one gets into adulthood, the differences in the way that they are treated can be noticed. By looking at this aspect from the French Revolution, we can be able to tell how some aspects of the aspects hindered the process of transitioning into modernity. The aspect also enables us to have a clearer understanding of modernity.
By looking at the different aspects of the French Revolution, it can be seen that the revolution had some hindrance on the transitioning of the French Jewry specifically those in Ashkenazim into a modern society. During the revolution, some unconditionalists fought to make sure that the Jews citizens of France were provided with equal rights just as the other citizens of the country had been given. Their efforts were strongly opposed by the impossibility who believed that the Jews were individuals who could not be recognized and that they were beyond salvation (Berkovitz 333). There was also a group of conditionalists who were led by Gregoire whose central belief was that the Jews could get civic equality eventually because of the prediction which was in the Jewish reformation. Through this, we can be able to see the way the Jewish society transitioned into a modern society. The conditionalists did not support the proposal to treat the black people equally with the white people. Instead, they promoted interracial marriages so that the black people can be regenerated into the society by the mulattos. This shows that the community believed that being white was good while being black was wrong, and they had to find a way to rectify the formation of the black people in the community (Kaplan 559). Through this aspect of racism which is presented during the French Revolution, a new understanding of modernity and they way transition from the middle ages to modern era happened. The issue of race, in this case, is seen as one of the most significant issue which needed to be addressed in the society; there was a compromise to offer equal treatment to the Jewish people by most people opposed the equal treatment of the black people. The only exception which was offered to the black people as if they got married to the white people and their children could be used to regenerate the black population. This shows how the French Revolution derailed the advancement transitioning of society into modernity.
The change of ideologies during the French Revolution also represents a way in which modernity was shaped and the way that it can be viewed. During the revolution, the society in France began experiencing some transitions towards modernity; this is evident from the way their culture was transitioning. It began with the abolition of the ideology of feudalism, and the institution of aristocratism was also weakened (Sepinwall 341). This had effects which were far-reaching implications in as much as the culture of the people living during this period was. The peasant and small farmers who were in France were accorded voting rights, and they were also able to own their land as well as choose their careers. Through this, the small-scale agricultural workers were no longer bound by the feudal contracts which they had signed, the weakening of this system signified one of the transformations of the society into a modern age society. The culture was changed with the weakening and abolition of the institutions which were weaker during the middle ages. People from the lower and middle classes had the opportunity to choose their career paths, and they were also able to own property and use it to maximize their returns (Kalay 142). This set a grand stage for the introduction of the idea of industrialization in France and also the implementation of the ideology of capitalism in the country. Through the introduction of capitalism into the country, the ideologies of bureaucracies began to be promoted. This meant that those who were rich would remain to be rich while those who were poor will remain to be poor; this also hindered the transition of the society into a modern age society. Through this review of the French Revolution, we can distinctively understand the way the changes in culture and ideologies during this time shape the meaning of modernity.
However, even with these advancements, there were several factors which presented a hindrance to the development of the society into a modern society. For instance, the blacks and people from other races were still not being treated in an equal manner, just like the French people. Although slavery and serfdom had been banned long ago, some French masters had found ways of using their human possessions. There were also people who had different ideologies on how the black people were to be treated, this did not present a treatment which was equal with the other members of the French society. The system too had not presented the proper way of the enabling the people who were considered to be poor and the peasant farmers to make their own wealth and investments. Even though the institutions which were used to bind them into contracts that could not allow them to own property had been weakened or abolished, the new system in the country had not fully developed to support them. In the past, the researchers who conduct research about the French Revolution often overlooked the issues of race, culture and ideologies which made it difficult for individuals to understand the concept of modernity holistically, because of this, there is need to develop a new focus on these issues which have often been overlooked so that the transition into modernity can be understood fully. These ideologies do not represent the concept of modernism. Even though the French Revolution is considered as the movement which led the transition into the modernity era, there are several aspects of culture, race and ideology that the revolution presented through which we can be able to understand the way the other aspects of modernity are perceived.
Berkovitz, Jay R. Rites, and Passages: The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Culture in France, 1650-1860. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
Kalay, Yehuda, Thomas Kvan, and Janice Affleck, eds. New heritage: New media and cultural heritage. Rou...
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