3) The Bourgeois Century


A History of Paris, c. 1730 to the Present

Following the rise and success of the bourgeoisie after the French Revolution, the next century (the long 19th century) is known as the bourgeois century.

  • 1815-1830: Restoration Monarchy – Napoleon defeated in 1815 by a collaboration of allies. The descendants of the previous monarchy were restored. But, this monarchy fell in 1830.
  • 1830-1848: July Monarchy – The monarchy was replaced with a bourgeois monarchy, otherwise known as the July Monarchy. There were lots of revolutions in and around 1848 across Europe that led to social democracy.
  • 1848-1852: Second Republic – (First Republic was in 1792). The Second Republic was very short-lived and was a radical experiment. Napoleon III (Napoleon’s grandson) launched a coup d’êtat that ended the Republic.
  • 1852-1870: Second Empire – The Second Empire ended in 1870 when Napoleon failed in the Franco-Prussian War.
  • 1870-1940: Third Republic – The Third Republic began after Napoleon fell and has basically been in place ever since.

The class conflict of the 18th century was replaced with a state and individual conflict in the 19th century. The state expanded globally in the 19th century while also getting to know/control its citizens.

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Michael Foucalt (‘Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison’, 1975) argues that before the French Revolution, states focused on territory with leaders seeing their domain in terms of ownership of space. Over the course of the 19th century, the focus shifted to look at population instead. The state used fear to control the people in the 18th century like Damiens in 1757 where a man was hung, drawn and quartered. In the 19th century, regimentation was used to control the people like in the juvenile detention facility, Mettray 1840. This regimentation is still used but is much subtler and uses more democratic means.

Paris was expansive as an imperial and colonial force. It was the centre of revolution and enlightenment, and in the 19th century became the centre for everything like culture, language and education. Paris' influence spread throughout France making the country think like 1 state. Eugen Weber’s ‘Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France 1870-1914’ (1976) explains how the cultures and ideas of Paris spread to encapsulate all of France. Roads and railways allowed ideas to physically travel much quicker; telegraphs and post offices were set up at train stations; bureaucracy; and regulations of language and education led to secular schools and French becoming the main language. Until the middle of the 19th century, most didn't speak French as their first language, but by the end of the century everyone spoke French. With all these things in common, a common identity could now be forged.

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Governmentality Continued

Modern prisons can be seen as an example of modern society as the prisoners become self-regulating and docile just in case they're being watched. 19th century society was the same following urbanisation due to the state regulations.

But, was the state getting too big as it was also eradicating individual cultures and freedoms with the reach of the modern state beginning to invade the everyday lives of its citizens. During urbanisation, cities were reorganised with state controls on how the city moved, especially through urban planning. Rules, regulations and order were needed to keep things moving smoothly, but this also meant the state was ordering the people telling them what to do.

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Crowd Psychology

The rise of the state in the 19th century is associated with the urban proletariat which was a dangerous phenomenon. It could lead to unknown crowd behaviour which can easily turn violent, like in the cat massacre and watching the king's execution. This crowd could have been dangerous to the Enlightenment.

Gustave Le Bon discussed this theory in his The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind’ (1895) where he believed the main themes in this period were magnetism, hypnotism, impulsiveness, irrationality, and herd behaviour.

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Baron Haussmann was the Prefect of Paris under Napoleon III, and in the 1850s and 1860s he was responsible for modernising the city as Napoleon wanted Paris to be the capital of Europe.  There were a series of social reforms and urban planners. The current urban places were dangerous due to being breeding grounds for diseases like cholera, and of revolution.

Barricades were (and still are) a big aspect of Paris. They were used to protect themselves and create social spaces to eat meals and play games etc. They also suggest the ownership of space and show the protest culture. But, it became much more difficult to maintain the barricades following Hausmannisation due to wider streets etc.

Haussmann's reorganisation led to straight lines across the city to help order it with lines of traffic and lines of fire/sight in war. Additions like the Arc de Triumph were used to show civic pride. Parks and cafes were used to improve the life of the citizen too.

But, Walter Benjamin had an interesting thought as he said:

‘The real aim of Haussmann’s works was the securing of the city against civil war. He wished to make the erection of barricades in Paris impossible for all time.’

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Charles Baudelaire described what is known as the 'flâneur' alluding to a man who saunters around observing society, the urban type. He explained the flâneur was the 'gentleman stroller of the city streets’ while also explaining what it was like to be in Paris, ‘…to be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world'. 

Walter Benjamin wrote his The Arcades Project which was a collection of writings on the city life of Paris in the 19th century, especially concerned with Paris' iron-and-glass covered 'arcades'. They were rising as the first department stores allowing for the development of 'window-shopping'. But, this also led to frenzied consumerism with decadence and excess appearing.

‘[Benjamin] applauded the development of new ‘dream spaces’, such as leisure parks, wax museums, and department stores and saw them all as products of a new commodity culture and as places that beckoned the flâneur.’

Bobby Seal

Benjamin's flâneur can be seen as the hero of modernity.

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Belle Époque (1871-1914) and Fin De Siècle (end of

Gustave Eiffel and Jules Verne had lofty asperations. Verne wrote From the Earth to the Moon which tells the story of the Baltimore Gun Club, a post-American Civil War society of weapons enthusiasts, and their attempts to build a massive Columbiad space gun and launch 3 people to the moon. He attempted some rough calculations, and some of the figures are surprisingly accurate.

Eiffel built his tower in the 7th arrondissement, beginning construction in 1887 and completing in 1889. It could have been a bourgeois fantasy of the belle époque and there are mixed reactions to the spectacle. Some see it as friendly while others hate the fact you can always see it looming over the city.

The tower is deeply entwined with the iconography of the city which has been used, abused and copied, like at Petřín hill (Prague), Las Vegas, and Blackpool. 

The nightlife in Paris saw the beginnings of nightclubs like Le Chat Noir and the Moulin Rouge. They drew on sex and spectacle, but could this have been too much fun? It's the dark underbelly of modernity that saw sexual violence, prostitution and r ape increase. Paris became dangerous and many thought the apocalypse was coming. There was a moral decay of Paris.

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