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Revolutionary Ideology: Democratisation and Moral Regeneration

Who gets power in a democratic revolution? What criteria are invoked in deciding the matter? The French and Russian revolutions sought to expand political participation, but problems soon arose over the extent of this empowerment. In both revolutions, social, gender and racial hierarchies were re-established to justify (or re-justify) certain kinds of inequalities. Moreover, both revolutions developed ‘regeneration’ schemes to prepare individuals for the social and civic responsibilities associated with power. Were these schemes totalitarian? Was as a minimum degree of consensus over core values needed to prevent society from lapsing into civil strife?

Seminar Questions

  1. If democracy and representation are not the same, how did French revolutionaries conceive of them? How did culture shape their conceptions of republican politics?
  2. Where did French revolutionaries derive their ideas about ‘public spirit’ and ‘regeneration’? How does Ozouf view those ideas?
  3. Were the Bolsheviks democrats?
  4. Assess the role of ‘consciousness’ in Lenin’s thinking. What were its implications?

Core Reading


  • Paul Friedland, ‘Métissage: The Merging of Theater and Politics in Revolutionary France’ in Political Actors: Representative Bodies and Theatricality in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), 1-13, 167-196.
  • Mona Ozouf, ‘Public Spirit’ and ‘Regeneration’ in Furet and Ozouf (eds.), Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (Cambridge Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1989), 771-790.


Further Reading


  • Keith M. Baker, ‘Politics and Public Opinion Under the Old Regime: Some Reflections’ in Jack Censer and Jeremy D. Popkin (eds.), Press and Politics in Pre-revolutionary France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 204-246. Shows how the concept of ‘public opinion’ served as a middle-term between anarchy and despotism.
  • Isser Woloch, The New Regime: Transformations of the French Civic Order, 1789-1820s (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1995), chaps 2-3 on ‘Political Participation’.
  • Charles Walton, ‘Policing the Moral Limits: Public Spirit, Surveillance, and the Remaking of Moeurs’ in Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution: The Culture of Calumny and the Problem of Free Speech (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 193-225, a refutation of Ozouf’s interpretation of ‘public spirit’ and ‘regeneration’.
  • Albert Soboul, The Parisian Sans-culottes of the Year II, Gwynne Lewis (trans.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964). See the devastating critique by R. M. Andrews, ‘Social Structures, Political Elites and Ideology in Revolutionary Paris, 1792-94: A Critical Evaluation of Albert Soboul's "Les sans-culottes parisiens en l'an II’, Journal of Social History, 19: 1 (1985), 71-112.
  • David A. Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism, 1680-1800 (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001).
  • Sophia Rosenfeld, A Revolution in Language: the problem of signs in late eighteenth-century France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001).
  • Mona Ozouf, Festivals and the French Revolution, 1789-1799, Alan Sheridan (trans.) (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988). See also L’Homme Régénéré (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), untranslated but important.
  • Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), especially the first section on culture.
  • R. R. Palmer, The Improvement of Humanity: Education and the French Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).
  • Gary Kates, The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).
  • Alyssa Sepinwall, The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution: The Making of Modern Universalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).
  • Richard Cobb, The Police and the People: French Popular Protest, 1789-1820 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), especially the chapter ‘L'esprit public and the Language of Orthodoxy’.
  • Matthew Shaw, Time and the French Revolution: The Republican Calendar, 1789-Year XIV (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2011).


  • Mally, Lynn Culture of the Future: the Proletkul’t Movement in Revolutionary Russia Berkeley 1990
  • Biggart, John Alexander Bogdanov, left Bolshevism and the Proletkul’t 1904-32 (electronic resource) University of East Anglia 1989
  • Biggart, John; Dudley, Peter; King Francis (eds) Alexander Bogdanov and the origins of systems thinking in Russia Aldershot 1998a
  • Biggart, John; Gloveli, Georgii and Yassour, Avraham (eds) Bogdanov and his Work: a Guide to the Published and Unpublished Works of A.A.Bogdanov (Malinovskii) Aldershot 1998 b
  • Bogdanov, A. A. ‘Fortunes of the workers' party in the present revolution’ Novaia zhizn’ 19 (26 January) and 20 (27 January) 1918, unpublished translation by J. Biggart for The Study Group on the Russian Revolution, January 1984.
  • Zamiatin, E We (Harmondsworth 1973)
  • Zamiatin, E ‘The Cave’ in The Dragon and other Stories (Harmondsworth 1975)
  • Blok, A. The twelve, in Selected poems, (trans by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France) Harmondsworth 1974
  • Brooks, Jeffrey When Russia learned to read: literacy and popular literature, 1861--1917 Princeton 1985
  • Lenin, V.I. On Co-operation
  • Trotsky, L. Problems of Everyday Life: Creating the Foundations for a New Society in Revolutionary Russia (Pathfinder Press, New York, 1973)
  • Trotsky, L Literature and Revolution (1924: free Kindle version at this address
  • Voronsky, A.K. Art as the Cognition of Life: Selected Writings 1911-1936 (First Russian edition 1924. English edition Mehring Books, Oak Park, Michigan, 1998) Title essay