Publication Date: 1995-01-01
The eighteenth century was awash with rumor and talk. The words and opinions of ordinary people filled the streets of Paris. But were these simply the isolated grumblings and gossip of the crowd, or is it possible to speak of genuine 'public opinion' among the common people? This is the subject of Subversive Words, the newest book by French historian Arlette Farge. Farge begins with Jurgen Habermas's notion of a bourgeois public sphere. However, whereas Habermas was concerned mostly with the 'cultured classes,' Farge focuses on the uneducated common people. Drawing on chronicles, newspapers, memoirs, police reports, and news sheets from the time, she finds that by the second half of the eighteenth century ordinary Parisians had come to assert their right to hold and declare clear opinions on what was happening in their city--visible, real, everyday events such as executions, price rises, and revolts.