What Is the Third Estate?

Last updated
The first page of Qu'est-ce que le Tiers Etat? Qu'est ce que le Tiers Etat.jpg
The first page of Qu'est-ce que le Tiers Etat?

What Is the Third Estate? (French : Qu'est-ce que le Tiers-État?) is a political pamphlet written in January 1789, shortly before the outbreak of the French Revolution, by the French writer and clergyman Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836). The pamphlet was Sieyès' response to finance minister Jacques Necker's invitation for writers to state how they thought the Estates-General should be organized.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Abbé is the French word for abbot. It is the title for lower-ranking Catholic clergymen in France.

Contents

In the pamphlet, Sieyès argues that the third estate – the common people of France – constituted a complete nation within itself and had no need of the "dead weight" of the two other orders, the first and second estates of the clergy and aristocracy. Sieyès stated that the people wanted genuine representatives in the Estates-General, equal representation to the other two orders taken together, and votes taken by heads and not by orders. These ideas came to have an immense influence on the course of the French Revolution.

One man, one vote slogan used by advocates of political equality through various electoral reforms

One man, one vote is a slogan used by advocates of political equality through various electoral reforms such as universal suffrage, proportional representation, or the elimination of plural voting, malapportionment, or gerrymandering.

Summary

The pamphlet is organized around three hypothetical questions and Sieyès' responses. The questions and responses are:

Throughout the pamphlet, Sieyès argues that the first and second estates are simply unnecessary, and that the Third Estate is in truth France's only legitimate estate, representing as it does the entire population. Thus, he asserts, it should replace the other two estates entirely. The Third Estate has to pay tax.

Taxation in France is determined by the yearly budget vote by the French Parliament, which determines which kinds of taxes can be levied and which rates can be applied.

Pluralist theory of the state

Although the idea of the pluralistic state theory was crystallized by English political philosophers such as G. D. H. Cole, J. N. Figgis and H. J. Laski, it has its origins in French and Italian philosophers preceding the French revolution, especially in the pamphlet of Sieyès, where the theory plays a prominent role. Sieyès argued that state centralized sovereignty was flawed and should undergo radical transformation towards a decentralized and federated form of authority, which means the dealings of society would be organized and operated by independent associations, and therefore society would be self-governed. A comprehensive collection of writings on the topic was released under "Pluralist Theory of the State". [1]

G. D. H. Cole Historian, economist, writer

George Douglas Howard Cole was an English political theorist, economist, writer and historian. As a libertarian socialist, he was a long-time member of the Fabian Society and an advocate for the co-operative movement.

Harold Laski British academic

Harold Joseph Laski was an English political theorist and economist. He was active in politics and served as the chairman of the British Labour Party during 1945–1946, and was a professor at the London School of Economics from 1926 to 1950. He first promoted pluralism, emphasising the importance of local voluntary communities such as trade unions. After 1930 he shifted to a Marxist emphasis on class conflict and the need for a workers' revolution, which he hinted might be violent. Laski's position angered Labour leaders who promised a nonviolent democratic transformation. Laski's position on democracy came under further attack from Winston Churchill in the 1945 general election and the Labour party had to disavow Laski, its chairman.

Modern equivalent theories building upon the ideas within pluralistic state theory are libertarian socialism and free-market anarchism. An example of the former is guild socialism, one of the founders of which is G. D. H. Cole mentioned above.

Libertarian socialism, also referred to as anarcho-socialism or stateless socialism and socialist libertarianism, is a set of anti-authoritarian and anti-statist political philosophies within the socialist movement which rejects the conception of socialism as a form where the state retains centralized control of the economy. Libertarian socialism is seen as a synonym for anarchism and libertarianism, is close to and overlaps with left-libertarianism and criticizes wage labour relationships within the workplace, instead emphasizing workers' self-management and control of the workplace and decentralized structures of political organization.

Free-market anarchism, or market anarchism, includes several branches of anarchism that advocate an economic system based on voluntary, free-market interactions without the involvement of the state. A branch of market anarchism is left-wing market anarchism, including modern mutualists such as Kevin Carson and Gary Chartier, who consider themselves anti-capitalists and identify as part of the socialist movement.

Guild socialism is a political movement advocating workers' control of industry through the medium of trade-related guilds "in an implied contractual relationship with the public". It originated in the United Kingdom and was at its most influential in the first quarter of the 20th century. It was strongly associated with G. D. H. Cole and influenced by the ideas of William Morris.

See also

Estates of the realm broad social orders of the hierarchically conceived society recognised in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period in Christian Europe

The estates of the realm, or three estates, were the broad orders of social hierarchy used in Christendom from the medieval period to early modern Europe. Different systems for dividing society members into estates developed and evolved over time.

Pluralism as a political philosophy is the recognition and affirmation of diversity within a political body, which permits the peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions, and lifestyles.

Modernism Philosophical and art movement (late 19th – early 20th century)

Modernism is both a philosophical movement and an art movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by reactions to the horrors of World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, although many modernists also rejected religious belief.

Related Research Articles

Political philosophy sub-discipline of philosophy and political science

Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

State capitalism is an economic system in which the state undertakes commercial economic activity and where the means of production are organized and managed as state-owned business enterprises, or where there is otherwise a dominance of corporatized government agencies or of publicly listed corporations in which the state has controlling shares. Marxist literature defines state capitalism as a social system combining capitalism with ownership or control by a state— by this definition, a state capitalist country is one where the government controls the economy and essentially acts like a single huge corporation, extracting the surplus value from the workforce in order to invest it in further production.

Ikki Kita Japanese philosopher

Ikki Kita was a Japanese author, intellectual and political philosopher who was active in early-Shōwa period Japan. A harsh critic of the Emperor system and the Meiji Constitution, he asserted that the Japanese were not the emperor's people, rather the Emperor was the "people's emperor". He advocated a complete reconstruction of Japan through a form of statist, non-progressive socialism. Kita was in contact with many people on the extreme right of Japanese politics, and wrote pamphlets and books expounding his ideas. The government saw Kita's ideas as disruptive and dangerous; in 1937 he was implicated, although not directly involved, in a failed coup attempt and executed. He is still widely read in academic circles in Japan.

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès French priest and statesman

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, most commonly known as the abbé Sieyès, was a French Roman Catholic abbé, clergyman and political writer. He was one of the chief political theorists of the French Revolution, and also played a prominent role in the French Consulate and First French Empire.

Louis Blanc French politician and historian

Louis Jean Joseph Charles Blanc was a French politician and historian. A socialist who favored reforms, he called for the creation of cooperatives in order to guarantee employment for the urban poor.

John Neville Figgis (1866–1919) was an historian, political philosopher, and Anglican priest and monk of the Community of the Resurrection. Educated at Brighton College and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, he was a student of Lord Acton at Cambridge, and editor of much of Acton's work.

Paul Quentin Hirst was a British sociologist and political theorist. He became Professor of Social Theory at Birkbeck, University of London in 1985 and held the post until his death from a stroke and brain haemorrhage.

State monopoly capitalism

The theory of state monopoly capitalism was initially a Marxist doctrine popularised after World War II. Lenin had claimed in 1916 that World War I had transformed laissez-faire capitalism into monopoly capitalism, but he did not publish any extensive theory about the topic. The term refers to an environment where the state intervenes in the economy to protect larger monopolistic or oligopolistic businesses from threats. As conceived by Lenin in his pamphlet of the same name the theory aims to describe the final historical stage of capitalism, of which he believed the Imperialism of that time to be the highest expression.

Libertarian Marxism economic and political philosophies that emphasize the "anti-authoritarian" aspects of Marxism

Libertarian Marxism refers to a broad scope of economic and political philosophies that emphasize the anti-authoritarian aspects of Marxism. Early currents of libertarian Marxism such as left communism emerged in opposition to Marxism–Leninism and its derivatives such as Stalinism and Maoism, among others. Libertarian Marxism is also often critical of reformist positions such as those held by social democrats. Libertarian Marxist currents often draw from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' later works, specifically the Grundrisse and The Civil War in France; emphasizing the Marxist belief in the ability of the working class to forge its own destiny without the need for a vanguard party to mediate or aid its liberation. Along with anarchism, libertarian Marxism is one of the main currents of libertarian socialism.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Monarchiens

The Friends of the Monarchist Constitution, commonly known as the Monarchist Club or the Monarchiens, were one of the revolutionary factions in the earliest stages of the French Revolution. The Monarchiens were briefly a centrist stabilising force criticized by the left-wing of the National Constituent Assembly, the spectators in the galleries and the patriotic press. Established in August 1789, the Monarchist Club was quickly swept away. Specifically, the brief movement developed when the Revolution was shifting away from the Ancien Régime during the Spring of 1789 and was defeated by the end of 1789. Subsequently, the term itself is usually derogatory.

<i>What Is to Be Done?</i> 1902 book by Vladimir Lenin

What Is to Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement is a political pamphlet written by the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in 1901 and published in 1902. Lenin said that the article represented "a skeleton plan to be developed in greater detail in a pamphlet now in preparation for print". Its title is inspired by the novel of the same name by the 19th century Russian revolutionary Nikolai Chernyshevsky.

Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.

Socialism in one country was a theory put forth by Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin in 1924 which was eventually adopted by the Soviet Union as state policy. The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1923 except Russia, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally. This turn toward national communism was a shift from the previously held position by classical Marxism that socialism must be established globally. However, proponents of the theory argue that it contradicts neither world revolution nor world communism. The theory was in opposition to Leon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution and Communist Left` theory of World Revolution.

Karl Kautsky Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician

Karl Johann Kautsky was a Czech-Austrian philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician. Kautsky was recognized as among the most authoritative promulgators of Orthodox Marxism after the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Classless society society in which no one is born into a social class

Classless society refers to a society in which no one is born into a social class. Such distinctions of wealth, income, education, culture, or social network might arise and would only be determined by individual experience and achievement in such a society.

References