By Michael Sonenscher
Ever because the French Revolution, Madame de Pompadour's remark, "Après moi, le déluge" (after me, the deluge), has gave the impression of a callous if exact prophecy of the political cataclysms that all started in 1789. yet a long time ahead of the Bastille fell, French writers had used the word to explain a unique type of egocentric recklessness--not towards the flood of revolution yet, relatively, towards the flood of public debt. In ahead of the Deluge, Michael Sonenscher examines those fears and the responses to them, and the result's not anything under a brand new frame of mind in regards to the highbrow origins of the French Revolution. during this nightmare imaginative and prescient of the longer term, many prerevolutionary observers estimated that the pressures generated via sleek conflict finance may trigger a series of debt defaults that will both break demonstrated political orders or reason a surprising lurch into despotic rule. Nor was once it transparent that constitutional govt may possibly maintain this risk at bay. Constitutional executive may make public credits safer, yet public credits may well undermine constitutional govt itself. ahead of the Deluge examines how this concern gave upward thrust to a common eighteenth-century curiosity in knowing the right way to identify and hold consultant governments capable of detect the promise of public credits whereas heading off its peril. through doing so, the publication throws new gentle on a overlooked element of recent political concept and at the French Revolution.
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Extra info for Before the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality, and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution
Paris, 1804), and the compilation of eighteenth-century predictions of revolution in Karl Ludwig von Haller, Restauration de la science politique ou the´orie de l’e´tat social naturel, 4 vols. (Paris and Lyon, 1824–61), vol. 4, chs. 6 and 7. See also Edmond Lerminier, De l’inﬂuence de la philosophie du xviiie sie`cle sur la le´gislation et la sociabilite´ du xixe sie`cle (Brussels, 1834), p. 10; Pierre-Edouard Lemontey, Histoire de la re´gence et de la minorite´ de Louis XV , 2 vols. (Paris, 1832), p.
These add a different dimension to the political arguments that began in France in 1787 because they introduce a range of causal considerations and conjectures into what might otherwise seem to have been no more than the ﬂat assertion of irreconcilable principle. In imaginative terms, 1794 came before 1789. If this was the case, then taking the principles proclaimed in 1789 as the pivot that (however inadvertently) set revolutionary politics on course for the Terror may not be quite right. The principles themselves may need more careful examination, because they may have had to include the subject of averting Armageddon as much as they also, more obviously, involved overturning absolute government.
They may, therefore, have to be set alongside a broader range of causal claims both about the properties of a world made up of sovereign states, standing armies, and public debts and about the kind of political system able to withstand its putative potential for catastrophe. This makes the sequence more complicated. It does so not just because it opens up more of a space for a lower level of causal inevitability and a greater amount of more historically contingent political argument and choice, but also, more importantly, because it makes the question of the alternative to absolute government a matter of real historical and analytical signiﬁcance.