Political Science in Modern
The French Revolution
Definition of a Revolution
• Rapid, fundamental, and often violent transformation of a country’s:
1. Class Structure
• A revolution can be caused by many grievances in the population such as
poverty or depression. It can also be caused due to a big disappointment.
Revolutions need a leader and an inspiration.
• Karl Marx says you need to have a Bourgeois Revolution (capitalism),
before you have a Communist Revolution. The state is the biggest actor in
a revolution (weak or strong).
The Old French Regime
• There were three estates. It didn’t matter about the individual, only which
group you belonged to. The Nobility was warriors, and military men. The
Church was chosen by Rome and had larger amounts of land. The Third
Estate was everyone else. You usually were not able to get out of these
• They were an Absolute Monarchy, which had no formal restrictions on
state power, and no real laws. There was a lot of decentralization:
o Venal Offices: Sold by the state, impossible to fire office holders.
Military commissions subject to purchase. This was a problem
because it wasn’t based on who was best, but whoever has the
most money (not based on Merit).
o Privileges: The wealthy was not taxed, so the poor were taxed
more. You could purchase tax exemptions.
o Parlements: Local “courts of appeal” against Monarch dominated
by nobility. They were sort of like Congress.
• The French engaged in the Seven years war and won it. Because of this
they declared bankruptcy, and debt was servicing 60% of the tax revenue.
French Revolution Phase I:
• Because of the loss of the money, they decide to raise taxes. They held an
assembly and it was sent to the Parlement to accept. The refuse to tax the
rich, and this is o