Economic Participation and Social Interest: Fran├žois Guizot on Evolving Political Capacity

Friday, January 6, 2017: 3:30 PM
Director's Row H (Sheraton Denver Downtown)
Gianna Englert, Political Theory Project, Brown University
In his reflections on Restoration politics, François Guizot, one of the Doctrinaire liberals of France’s 19th century, pointed to the complexity of democracy and its implications for the future of French society.  At the heart of Guizot’s thought lie the lingering themes of the Revolution: the extension of suffrage and the rights of citizenship.  On this point, he has been accused by his interpreters of designing and promoting a “middle-class mystique” that confined the rights of citizenship to the narrow bourgeoisie and supplanted aristocracy with oligarchy.  His pronouncement – Enrichissez-vous! – reverberates throughout history and scholarship, framing an interpretation of Guizotian citizenship as inextricably bound to wealth, property, and social status.  Yet as I argue, Guizot understood that property and social class in themselves could not ground claims to citizenship and political capacity.  Economic participation, and not entirely class inclusion, allows persons to recognize “the social interest” and participate in political life.  Capacity is an ever-evolving standard for extending citizenship, dependent on the underlying social and economic order.  Using Guizot’s lens of “philosophical history,” I highlight the fluid and progressive nature of citizenship in his thought, and address the relationship between political democracy and liberal principles in France’s Bourbon Restoration.
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