The Unexceptional State : Rethinking the State in the Nineteenth Century (France, United States)
The American Historical Review
481 - 503 p.
State, nineteenth century, bureaucracy, French history, US history, Etat, 19e siècle, bureaucratie, histoire de France, histoire des Etats-Unis
In the past thirty years, historians have deeply renewed our understanding of the state in the early republic period of the United States as much more powerful, deep reaching, and proactive than the traditional image represented. In France, too, new work has revised our vision of the state in the early nineteenth century, which looked different from the triumphant, Napoleonic leviathan that often appears in discourse. Yet both historiographies, having evolved separately, still base their conclusion on implicit comparisons, with an imagined “European” state or with a later “modern” state. This article uses the new historiographies on both countries to go beyond those unstated exceptionalisms to propose a reconstruction of the state in that period. Pulling those studies together, and mobilizing insights from one to shed light on the other, it recovers a common repertoire of statecraft that emerged in the revolutionary era. It hinged on fostering consent of key segments of the population and therefore organized the work of the state in mostly nonbureaucratic forms. States in that period reflected a particular enmeshing of public and private forms that needs to be analyzed for itself, especially if we want to understand the specificity of today’s practices.