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'Die Manie der Revolte': Protest unter der Franzosischen Julimonarchie (1830-1848).

German historical sociologist Werner Giesselmann's massive study of social protest under the July Monarchy is a self-conscious attempt to swim against the tide of most recent research in social history. At a time when most scholars have abandoned large-scale quantification and hypothesis-testing approaches modelled after those of the natural sciences, Giesselmann has undertaken a computerized analysis of 110,423 protest incidents in France between July 1830 and February 1848, with the aim of providing empirical tests of a wide variety of social science theories about the origins of protest. His study challenges some widely held assumptions about social protest in this period, but the limited scope of his conclusions unavoidably raises the question frequently posed by lengthy statistical studies: are the results worth the heavy investment of time and effort?

Giesselmann bases his study on the Compte general de l'administration de la Justice criminelle, a series of annual published reports begun in 1826. His definition of protest is "any individual or collective form of aggression due to social causes that violated existing law and threatened public order and had the function of expressing dissatisfactions and promoting interests caused by social conditions." (p. 12) In contrast to Charles Tilly, whose statistical studies of protest in France are one of Giesselmann's principal targets for revision, his study is not limited to outbreaks involving group action. Giesselmann argues that the Tilly approach unjustifiably overstresses organized mass actions and ignores a variety of incidents, ranging from assassination attempts on the king to violations of forest regulations, that were carried out by individuals or small groups but that nonetheless reflected hostility to the existing social order.

The first half of Giesselmann's work describes the kaleidoscopic variety of protest under the July Monarchy. He reminds us that the regime faced many kinds of protests besides workers' strikes and republican uprisings. Protests, including rural defenses of common rights, the legitimist uprising in the west in 1832, tax revolts, resistance to the 1841 census and to emergency measures against the spread of cholera, and student demonstrations, were a part of the period's daily life. They were most frequent in the early 1830s, as the newly installed regime struggled to stabilize itself in the midst of a major economic crisis; the simultaneous legitimist uprising in the west and the huge republican demonstration of June 6, 1832 in Paris could easily have toppled the Orleanist order. After a period of relative calm, a new protest cycle began in 1838 and lasted into 1840, and a third cycle in 1846-47 led up to the February Revolution of 1848.

The second half of the book measures the correlation between protest rates and a variety of other variables and then uses these findings to test various social-science theories about the origins of such actions. Distrustful of overly elaborate statistical techniques applied to crude historical data, Giesselmann eschews the use of regression analysis, limiting himself to simple correlations between protest rates and such variables as population density, grain prices, urbanization, industrialization, literacy rates, and intensity of repression. He finds that protest frequency was strongly linked to cities and to areas undergoing rapid economic change. Protesters were overwhelmingly mature male members of settled populations; Giesselmann finds no support for theories that blame unrest on uprooted migrants or youths without family ties.

Protest fluctuated along with economic conditions, leading Giesselmann to criticize recent historians who have emphasized the cultural roots of protest and underplayed the role of simple economic misery during a period when the real incomes of French workers reached their all-time low. Nevertheless, protest was most intense during periods of recovery from crises, and not, as simple Marxist theory would predict, when things were at their worst. Giesselmann gives some support to Ted Gurr's hypotheses about the role of relative deprivation and frustrated expectations in triggering protests than to other sociological explanations. On the other hand, he vigorously disputes Charles Tilly's claims that the period saw a shift toward more overtly political protest, channeled by structured organizations, which he considers an artifact of Tilly's excessive concentration on large scale incidents. Giesselmann's methodological challenge to Tilly raises important questions, but one could counter that it was the large-scale and highly publicized protests on which Tilly has concentrated, rather than the everyday run-ins between isolated individuals and the authorities, that shaped social memory and had historical effects. Giesselmann is also critical of "ethno-cultural" analyses rooted in E. P. Thompson's notion of a plebeian culture, which he faults for emphasizing the structural logic of protests but neglecting to explain why confrontations occurred at certain times and not at others. Both in its bulk and in its approach, Giesselmann's book stands in clear opposition to Peter Sahlins's anthropologically oriented Forest Rites (1994), a recent American study of rural protest in the period.

'Die Manie der Revolte' is certainly a major contribution to the understanding of protest in 19th-century France, and to methodological debate about how the phenomenon should be studied. Despite - or perhaps because of - the author's caution in interpreting his findings, the book exemplifies some of the reasons why most historians have turned away from quantitative research since the early 1970s. In his overall summary, Giesselmann avers that the causes of protest were always complex, and that his historical data cannot be fitted into the mold of a "social-scientific causal model." (p. 1017) The theories he claims to have invalidated, particularly those linking uprootedness and protest, have already been undermined by more limited studies. The qualified nature of his conclusions, in comparison to the effort invested, may suggest why most research in this area has turned to other paths.

Jeremy D. Popkin University of Kentucky
COPYRIGHT 1996 Journal of Social History
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Popkin, Jeremy D.
Publication:Journal of Social History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1996
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