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The Citizenship Experiment pdf download

Book Title The Citizenship Experiment
Book AuthorRené Koekkoek
Total Pages304
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The Citizenship Experiment – Contesting the Limits of Civic Equality and Participation in the Age of Revolutions

By René Koekkoek


Book Introduction

This is a book about the fate of the ideal of citizenship in the Age of Revolutions. It examines how over the course of the 1790s Americans, Frenchmen, and Dutchmen articulated and debated their ideas and ideals of citizenship in light of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) and the French revolutionary Terror (1793–1794).

 It argues that the uprisings of free coloured people and black slaves in Saint-Domingue and the Terror in continental France became trans-nationally shared points of reference and sites of contemplation.

They turned into phenomena that bred anxieties and raised difficult questions about the nature and limits of two core ideals of the revolutionary citizenship discourse of the Age of Atlantic Revolutions: civic equality and political participation.

The momentous and, to many, shocking events that reverberated throughout the Atlantic world coloured events at home, informed a range of arguments in domestic political debates and generated parallel patterns in the evaluation of the limits and dangers of revolutionary citizenship.

By the end of the 1790s, the intellectual repercussions of these experiences shattered the ideological unity of an Atlantic revolutionary movement – and moment. It led Americans, Frenchmen, and Dutchmen to abandon the notion of a shared, Atlantic, revolutionary vision of citizenship and to forge more nationalized conceptions of what it means to be a citizen.

In two important ways, this is a different story than is usually told about the age of revolutions as a turning point in the history of citizenship. First, the legacy of the age of revolutions for the meaning of citizenship is often told in terms of rights-based constitutionalism, the nation-state, representative democracy, and political participation.

The 1790s, however, were also a breeding ground for a set of arguments for limited citizen participation in politics, for a sustained critique of factional popular societies and the dangers they were seen to represent; for arguments in favour of an exclusive regime of (imperial) citizenship based on civilizational inequality, and for arguments in favour of the idea that nation-states should follow their own path in devising their citizenship arrangements and models.

These sets of arguments have long shaped debates about the idea and ideal of citizenship.

Importantly, they were not only put forth by reactionary and counter-revolutionary conservatives, but by a cohort of moderate revolutionary and post-revolutionary politicians, journalists, thinkers, and publicists who gave shape to what I call the ‘Atlantic Thermidor’.1

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