Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Revolutionary France and Contemporary USA

Very good piece in today's NYT by Fran├žois Furstenberg who is a professor of history at the University of Montreal.

"Much as George W. Bush’s presidency was ineluctably shaped by Sept. 11, 2001, so the outbreak of the French Revolution was symbolized by the events of one fateful day, July 14, 1789. And though 18th-century France may seem impossibly distant to contemporary Americans, future historians examining Mr. Bush’s presidency within the longer sweep of political and intellectual history may find the French Revolution useful in understanding his curious brand of 21st- century conservatism. "

He goes on to draw some quite precise parallels between what we see ocurring in Bush's America and what took place in France during la Terreur.

"Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur."

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