French Liberals and the Capacity for Citizenship

JHI Blog

by guest contributor Gianna Englert

M.L. Bosredon, “L’urne et le fusil” (April 1848). A worker sets aside his weapon to engage in the act of voting?a faith that universal suffrage would mitigate violence. This was a claim that liberals rejected. 2017 has done a lot for the history of ideas. “Post-truth” politics, tyranny, nationalism, and the nature of executive power have pushed us to make sense of the present by appealing to the past. The history of political thought offers solid ground, a way to steady ourselves?not to venerate what has come before, but to use it to clarify or challenge our own ideas.

Debates surrounding citizenship also lend themselves to this approach. They return us to foundational political questions. They force us to ask who is in, who is out, and why.

These questions are not new, nor are they distinctly American. We can learn about them from a seemingly unlikely time…

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