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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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Raising the Stakes

Raising the Stakes

The Measure of Ambition (1800)

(p.181) Chapter 8 Raising the Stakes
Germaine de Staël

Biancamaria Fontana

Princeton University Press

This chapter analyzes how Staël believed that the enforcement of political equality and popular sovereignty was the natural consequence of the progress of modern societies. But for a country like France, accustomed to centuries of royal absolutism, the transition to this new state of affairs had been too abrupt, proving traumatic and profoundly disruptive. The adoption of these new principles was not in itself a guarantee that French society would continue to flourish, rather than disintegrating altogether, or possibly sinking into a kind of “democratic stagnation.” For it to succeed, other conditions had to be satisfied: the adoption of rigorous standards of public morality, the promotion of intellectual and artistic excellence, and the emergence of men capable of conferring on the republic a distinctive grandeur, able to match and surpass that of the old monarchy.

Keywords:   Germaine de Staël, political equality, popular sovereignty, modern societies, royal absolutism, democratic stagnation, republic

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