The intellectual changes taking place in eighteenth-century France have long been cited as a cause of the Revolution. In this chapter Linton stresses the complexity of the relationship of the Enlightenment to the outbreak of revolution. She shows how traditional interpretations have been affected by new perspectives in political culture and the social history of ideas. She considers some of the leading eighteenth-century participants in radical political polemics, and looks at key concepts in the development of those polemics. Recognizing that discourse theory has been a fruitful approach, she nevertheless points to problematic features of the approach of Baker and of Furet. With regard to Baker, she critiques three features: firstly, the schematic claim to boil down the ideological origins into three particular discourses, those of will, reason, and justice; secondly, the ideas-driven approach that gives insufficient place to the impact of context and events; thirdly, the neglect of the motivations, intentions, and rhetorical strategies on the part of authors of discourses. To illustrate these points she shows how the discourse of virtue also played a significant role in the ideological origins of the Revolution, a role that must be interpreted in terms of the rhetorical and strategic development of this concept within specific historical contexts. Nor was this idea new in 1789, molding its users in a determinist fashion, as Furet suggested. By 1789 a language had been fashioned (consisting of such key words as virtue, patrie, nation, despotism, privilege) armed with which participants could enter into the new realm of politics and struggle to control the political debates for the future of France. But the shape of that future was still very much under contestation, and would be further transformed in the context of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary politics.
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