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Germaine de StaëlA Political Portrait$
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Biancamaria Fontana

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691169040

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691169040.001.0001

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Politics as Propaganda

Politics as Propaganda

Defending the Queen (1793)

(p.61) Chapter 3 Politics as Propaganda
Germaine de Staël

Biancamaria Fontana

Princeton University Press

This chapter illustrates how Staël's analysis of the Jacobins' performance raises the question of the role she attributed, in the revolutionary process, to what she referred to as “the people” or “the nation.” On her account, if the mass of the people harbored the expectations that agitated French society, these shapeless aspirations acquired political significance only through the initiative of some active minority groups. The Revolution itself appeared to be the work of rival elites who pursued different political designs, each of them claiming to act according to the wishes of the whole nation. For Staël this interaction between the French people and its ruling elites was at best problematic. Because the country lacked a tradition of free government, in France the normal relations between a free nation and its elected representatives had not yet taken shape.

Keywords:   Germaine de Staël, Jacobins, revolutionary process, French society, minority groups, ruling elites, free government

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