Tempo, rivoluzione, costituzione: un bilancio storiografico

Autore: Paola Persano
In: Storica. 31 • anno XI, 2005
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The time of a revolution: a historiographic review
The concept of time in the historical representation of the French Revolution has taken hold, at least since the end of the seventies of the twentieth century, as a conceptual category capable of describing the act of revolution as the ultimate creative process of a modern political culture. The essay offers an essentially introspective point of view, in that it is based on the contemporaries’ experience and perception of themselves. To this extent, the analysis of the regenerative metaphors reveals features of a complex anthropology, in which an opening towards the future and the pedagogical concern for the citizens of tomorrow coexist with a sense of history and historical memory in the making, despite all appeals to do away with the past. The subsequent step where politics have to give way to a constitution, which clearly introduces the problem of how to ground a revolutionary constitution, opens the door to the unavoidable complications implicit in the dichotomy between innovation and conservation, autonomy and heteronomy, freedom of choice from forefathers and the constraints that are imposed on posterity. Yet behind this canopy, there is nothing. An utter lack of historiographical interest for the category of political generation, and the absence in late-eighteenth century revolutionary France of any conceptual history which, in the footsteps of Koselleck’s later teachings, might view generation no longer as a sociological notion or a criteria for historical/literary classification, but finally as a concept in its own right, an intermediate and complementary temporal structure compared to the event based structures or the more extended concept of history viewed in terms of historical periods. The essay dedicates a fair amount of its analysis in attempting to assess the meaning of this gap in historiography.