Study questions on William Sewell, Work and Revolution in France

chapters 1-6 

Chapter 1.

According to Sewell….

Were industrial workers at the core of the labor movement in early 19th century France?  Explain.

By abolishing the corporate system of guilds, did the French Revolution bring an end to the language of corporatism?  Explain.

When Sewell observed that the "old" language of corporatism had persisted after the 1790s, what questions did he being asking?

What does Sewell tell us about his methodology in this book (his methods for examining sources)?

What does Sewell/ Clifford Geertz mean by the statement "All experience is construed experience"?

In what was might we use the study of language and culture to understand workers' world views?  And can we understand workers in isolation from other groups?  Explain.


Chapter 2.

How does Sewell describe late 18th century French society?

How did "Old Regime" artisans divide up labor tasks in their workshops?

What does "arts et métiers" mean?

How did urban trades organize themselves?

What set craftsmen apart from unskilled laborers?

For Old Regime craftsmen, what was the relationship between labor and art?

How were the métier juré formed and what was their purpose?

Explain the relationship between master and apprentice and master and journeyman (compagnon). 

How could a journeyman become a master?

Why does Sewell call masters the "core" of the corporate community?

What were confraternities?  Were they simply devotional units?  Explain.

What does Sewell mean when he says that the sworn trades formed "moral communities"?

For Sewell, why is it significant that trades had patron saints?

What does Sewell mean by the "corporate idiom"?


Chapter 3

Again, what does Sewell mean by "corporate idiom"?

What does he say will be the main point in this chapter?

Why were compagnonnages illegal?  What was the Tour de France?

What is the point of Sewell's discussion of the Compagnie des Griffarins?

In what ways were compagnonnages like corporations?

What does Sewell see as the main point of compagnonnage initiation ceremonies?

Why were there rival "sects" of journeymen's brotherhoods?

Were journeymen a separate social "class"?  Explain.

Again, why does Sewell consider the corporate idiom to be an important concept?


Chapter 4. 

How did Enlightenment thinkers like Diderot reformulate the position of the mechanical arts in society?

How does Sewell  understand the relationship between the Enlightenment and free enterprise?

Why did Physiocrats like Turgot attack and suppress corporations, and why did the nobility stop Turgot's reforms?

For Sewell, what was so radical about the ideas in "What is the Third Estate?"

What was the D'Allarde Law of 1791, and why didn’t workers protest against it?

What was the LeChapelier Law of 1791 and why did LeChaperlier oppose corporations?

What is the thesis of this chapter?


Chapter 5.

What will be Sewell's main point in this chapter?

Sewell points out that during the Revolution, "the People" meant different things to different groups—what are some examples?

What new forms of association did journeymen create during the Revolution, and were these a break from the corporate mold?

What is it important that during the Revolution workers thought of their associations as both societies and "corps"?

What impact did the LeChapelier Law have upon journeymen?

Who were the sans culottes and how did they understand the meaning of the Revolution?  What were the "sections?"

Given the sans culottes' understanding of the Revolution , was it possible to have corporations and similar associations in 1792-94?   Explain.

On what social issues did the sans culottes focus and why?  And what is Sewell's main criticism of Albert Soboul's famous study of the sans culottes?

How did the sans culottes understand the relationship between labor and political virtue? How did they define aristocracy?  How did they define property?

Again, what is Sewell's thesis in this chapter?


Chapter 6.

Under the Old Regime, there were four different types of property.  What was the difference between absolute private property, property not under absolute domain, public private property, and quasi property?

Which types of property survived the Revolution?

How did Locke understand the concept of property?

Why did the 1791 constitution link citizenship to property ownership?

According to Sewell, what impact did the "revolution in property" have on urban trades?

What is Sewell's main point in this chapter?