Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Ode to the French Revolution

This short translation I published at the Martin Wolf Exchange (many of my contributions are stored in the FT and I am re-posting them here by and by): it gives us a flavour of the times:

I open, by chance, Albert Mathiez’s La Revolution Francaise and parse breathlessly its formidable preamble:

“The true revolutions, those that do not limit themselves to changing the political form and the government personnel, but rather those that transform the institutions and occasion the great transfers of property, labour a long time subterranean before bursting to the light of day under the impulse of some fortuitous circumstance. The French Revolution, which caught unawares with its irresistible impetus not less its artificers and beneficiaries than those who became its victims, had a languid preparation for over a century. It sprang out of the discordance, each day more and more profound, between the reality of things and the laws, between the institutions and the customs, between the letter and the spirit”.

I am proud of this, my translation. Soon we will look at the relation between public debt and revolutions.

On the recurrence of Bastille Day (14 juillet, 1789), here is my toast to the French Revolution.

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