chapter  9
8 Pages

9Paris : Seat o f Power

There were four essential elements in Parisian power. First, its large, literate and radical working-and lower-middle-class population. Most Parisians until the last years of the century were wage-earners or small self-employed artisans. Various attempts have been made to explain their political attitude by reference to their socio-economic condition. The artisan trades have often been described as declining, and Johnson has shown how certain trades (such as tailoring) underwent organizational changes in the 1830s that brought many of their members to support socialism in 1848.4 However, the idea of a general artisan decline is a dubious concept, as both Judt and Berlanstein have demonstrated.5 Attempts to show, on the other hand, that workers in more modern, larger-scale ‘proletarian’ industries were more militant are not convincing; moreover, genuinely large enterprises were always few.6 In any case, no economic factor can explain Paris’s unique history.