Conflicts to the State

In our reading for today, Sperber says that “the government’s sphere of activity in the first decades of the nineteenth century was relatively limited, thus restricting the range of possible confrontations between the state and its subjects” (p 47). I really do not know if I am sold on this idea that increased government involvement led to friction with the masses. Was government that much more involved in 1848 compared to earlier in the century in places outside of France? I picked out this topic t because I really think it is worth a few moments of our time to discuss how this plays into the bigger picture of why revolutions happen.

2 Replies to “Conflicts to the State”

  1. When answering this question I think it is important that we address the two ways that Sperber says the government is involved in the lives of the people. These two things are forced service in the armed forces as well as taxation. One can certainly argue that a major factor of the revolution was the famines of the time but I believe that the armed forces and taxes were also big factors. If we consider the idea of the social contract we can see that governments weren’t really playing there part in this time period in Europe. For example Sperber cites a fair in Cologne when troops began clubbing and stabbing civilians for “no good reason.” These citizens had to have felt like the taxes they were being weren’t serving a purpose because they didn’t feel safe and they didn’t have food to eat. In terms of the army, the rich could buy someone to fill there service position. All of these factors can be cited as evidence not that the government over expanded it’s power but it used its power in a way that violated the social contract.

  2. I think this is important topic to look at as well, but I do think that it is oversimplfying to say that increased government involvement was the cause of revolution. I think that a greater cause of revolutions during this time are a combination of an increasing population, increase in education, and industrialization. The increase of population is what caused more frustration over resources, and government involvement was necessary. I think an increase in education is important to this for the reasons that Sam outlined above, with an increase of education, the populace was better able to understand the ways in which their government wasn’t serving them and how their own participation was limited within government. Lastly, I’d say industrialization is relevant just because it was such an altering of the way life was lived, and peasantry was being left out of a lot of these improvements. Widening the difference in quality of life is another cause of revolt in societies.

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