Jean Jaurès and the Democratic Present

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Abstract

Jean Jaurès made it a personal mission to inhabit the present of political debate with his own physical persona, and the drama of his speeches, especially in the French lower house of parliament was self-conscious. Jaurès argued that democracy should provide the basis for social change in the present. No longer was it necessary to dream of utopias and plan secretively for future revolution. The socialist present as he saw it was an open, extrovert experience of lively argument, inspiring speeches and real physical commitment. The physicality of Jaurès’ presence within democratic argument was never more dramatically revealed than in the visceral shock of his assassination, felt as a crushing blow to the body politic, on the eve of the First World War. But his commitment to democratic ‘presence’ also shaped political reporting and commentary in his own day. Through his stubbornly forensic reading of the reports of great crimes and scandals, he would force his auditors to follow him through the precise process of recognizing, day by day and minute by minute, the evidence of violence against oppressed minorities. It was as though Jaurès understood that social redemption could only be attained through the paying of deep individual attention in and to the present.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTime on a Human Scale
Subtitle of host publicationExperiencing the Present in Europe, 1860-1930
EditorsJulian Wright, Allegra Fryxell
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Chapter10
Pages237-256
ISBN (Electronic)9780197266977
ISBN (Print)9780191955488
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings of the British Academy
Volume238

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