Study of Major Political Thinkers in France From the 17th to the 20th Century

Author: Addinall, Nigel
The subject of this book is the development of political ideas in France, examining the justification of Absolute Monarchy in the Seventeenth century, its rebuttal by the Eighteenth century “philosophes” in the name of the freedom of the individual, the reaction in turn by the nineteenth century “liberals” against their ideas which they considered led not to freedom but to oppression, the development in turn of socialism which perceived “liberalism” as promoting the freedom only of the rich and powerful few and finally a return to Monarchist ideas in the early Twentieth century as the only solution to the problems caused by the so-called sovereignty of the people. The Conclusion illustrates how many of these ideas are still echoed by French politicians in the present era of the Fifth Republic.


“This well-written book is designed to appeal to a wide readership and will undoubtedly prove invaluable to students and non-specialists alike. Concentrating on those writers who tended to adopt an extreme position in defending or attacking absolutism, Dr. Addinall shows clearly the perennial tension between the two tendencies, starting with views of absolutism as first fully-defined from the 17th century onwards and echoed in the 19th and 20th centuries, opposed by other writers from 18th and 19th centuries who claimed to speak for the general will of the people. Dr Addinall makes the concepts involved fully accessible to the ordinary reader through a clear analysis and description of salient features of primary texts by a number of key thinkers ... Exploring the history of an important political divide, Dr. Addinall rightly points out that modern republican France has moved on ... Through his clear and efficient presentation of major themes of the past, Dr. Addinall also furthers our understanding of France today.” - Dr. Christopher Todd, University of Leeds

“This thoughtful study for several significant French political thinkers will be highly useful in general for students of comparative politics, and in particular for French Studies undergraduates opting for courses on French political thought. Dr. Addinall who throughout displays an easy mastery of his chosen material, focuses on the crucial elements in each thinker’s writings, over four centuries of French history. He analyses their often knotty arguments with care and lucidity, and he writes in a pleasing, user-friendly, and balanced manner. He remembers to stress traditions, continuities, and cross-fertilization between thinkers, as well as antagonisms between contrasting political viewpoints. He fully justifies his selection of thinkers, and the result is a well-knit study of major currents of French political thought. His concluding chapter establishes the continuing relevance of all of these writers for present day political discussion.” – Professor Walter Redfern, Reading University

" ... very highly recommended addition to college and university Political Science reference collections." - Midwest Book Review

Table of Contents

1. The Rise of Absolutism
2. The Fall of Absolutism and the Age of the Enlightenment
3. Robespierre and the French Revolution
4. Benjamin Constant and the Rise of Liberalism
5. Proudhon’s Brand of Socialism
6. Maurras