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Hence, I had access to thousands of pages from primary sources for both the American and the French cases. I refer extensively to primary sources, although I made use of secondary sources in order to render my research manageable. I found in the secondary literature a number of quotations in which the word "democracy" and its related expressions appear. I also consulted dictionaries and compilations of quotations for instance, Dournon I drew some instances of the use of the word "democracy" directly from such secondary sources when, for practical reasons, it was impossible to get a copy of the primary source.

I realize the danger of such a practice, although I believe that I have found enough examples of the term "democracy" in primary sources to be able to interpret the secondary sources quite accurately.

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Yet, because there is always a risk of misinterpretation, I clearly indicate the exact reference of the secondary literature from which these quotations are taken. I am well aware, too, of one of the main limits and paradoxes of my research: it is impossible to know for sure how often and in what circumstances the proverbial 6 man on the Clapham omnibus used the word "democracy. It is ironic, to say the least, that it is more difficult for us to know what the demos thought of "democracy" than what the political elite thought about it.

However, by studying the usage of the term "democracy" not only in their personal letters, but also in their public speeches, pamphlets, or newspaper articles, we should be able to deduce at least what the elite believed the common folk's understanding of "democracy" to be. Moreover, sources such as popular songs and names of workers' associations in which the term "democracy" figures, do inform us about the use of the word "democracy" by the commoners.

Outline The first chapter of this dissertation deals with theoretical issues.

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I discuss the thinkers who have analysed the way in which words used by political actors could have a real impact on political reality. In this connection, I refer to the works of L. I also mention the comments made by certain political actors of the American and French revolutionary eras openly expressing their belief that words matter politically. I analyse the founders' penchant for classical and modern republicanism, because it explains why the political actors in the late s and in the early s used the word "democracy" mainly in a derogatory manner.

I then show part I that "democracy" was the goal neither of the American War of Independence nor of the French Revolution. Mainstream American and French political actors publicly admitted that they wanted to establish an elective regime, rather than to give power to the people. In both the American and the French 7 cases, "democracy" had a derogatory connotation. Next part II , I analyze how the term "democracy" and its cognates was used by political actors in the era following Independence in America, and the Revolution in France, while former allies Federalists and anti-Federalists in America; Robespierre, Danton and Hebert in France competed to control the new regime and to shape it according to their own ideals and interests.

Finally part III , I demonstrate that the word "democracy" was co-opted in the s and the s both in the United States and in France because political actors realized how effective the use of that word was in winning over electors. Conclusion I believe that my work may help to explain the process surrounding the construction of the modern discourse on democracy. I owe a great deal to historians such as Bernard Bailyn, Gordon S. Wood, Albert Soboul and Francois Furet. Yet, in the end, this research is not really about American or French history per se.

I regard my work as part of the academic debate and the public discussion about the meaning of democracy.

I analyse the birth of the modern pro-democratic discourse, and I reach the conclusion that it is not political philosophy but propaganda that gave the elective regime the name "democracy. In doing so, these political theorists are consequently, though this is not generally their intention, party to a form of propaganda.

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I shall have more to say about this in my conclusion. Lokken remarks that "the attribution of democratic motivations and ideas to eighteenth century colonists is a common fault among many 8 historians of the colonial period.


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Kenyon, "James Madison and Gouverneur Morris both advocated the direct, popular election of the President—on its face a radically democratic proposal—but neither was identified with the populist party in his state, and Morris was very closely associated with Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson devised a comprehensive plan of reform for the state of Virginia, aimed, as he said, at uprooting the last remnants of aristocracy there. But Jefferson was a staunch believer in separation of powers and therefore can scarcely qualify as a democrat for those who tend to identify democracy with the absence of separation of powers or the concentration of power in the legislative branch of the government" and Richard M.

Gummere remarks that "[t]he vocabulary of [the American] colonial period reveals many words which are out of use today, and many which are closer to their Latin derivation. Other words now in use have changed their meaning. Notify meant to make a thing public.

Imbecility cast no slurs on a person's mental powers: it signified weakness of body or of situation. To us security implies safety: to the colonists it was the equivalent of freedom from worry" , Yet, what concerns us are the political reasons explaining why "democracy" has changed its meaning. I introduced this political concept in Dupuis-Deri a; b; c. See also Bourdieu Yet, America and France had the greatest influence throughout the world with regard to the understanding and use of the term "democracy.

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Several contemporary writers and theoreticians have studied the relevance of words to politics. Although they are insightful and familiar to a large non-specialised public, their contributions have too often been dismissed by scholars who claim that they are polemical and biased rather than scientific. However, academics such as Terence Ball, John G. Pocock and Quentin Skinner, among others, also advocate a focus on words Dunn ; Prevost They have been influenced by the historians R.

Austin Skinner c: Their works also echo some particular aspects of the theories of Michel Foucault, Karl Mannheim, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and are very similar to the approach to conceptual history of the German scholar Reinhart Koselleck.


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Murray Edelman also stresses that "political language is political reality. I will also analyze how its use was related to specific political situations and struggles, since, as Michael Oakeshott 5 states, "in trying to make intelligible the utterances of writers on politics, [the historian of political reflections's] first business must be to relate them to their immediate context: the activity of governing and the experience of being governed.

In politics, words are used to identify, in a laudatory or derogatory manner, actors, factions and identities. Too often, scholars naively suggest2 that the writings of the political actors and commentators of the times are merely political philosophy—philosophical analysis of politics—while they are, in fact, political philosophy—philosophical discourse used to establish, secure or increase one's political power Bourdieu ; Fritsch While political philosophers believe that words are merely the translation of "true ideas" "idees vraies" in Bourdieu 24 , philosophical politicians know that they must chose their words accordingly to their political force Bourdieu 63 and In political philosophy, words are used to win adherence to one's cause or, on the contrary, to undermine the popularity of an opponent.

Of course, there is not on one hand a pure world of "ideas" and a dirty world of politics on the other.

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The question is then how can one distinguish a political philosopher from a philosophical politician? In other words: how can a student be sure about the political intention behind a perticular statement? Words have to be studied carefully because it is with words that political actors express their thought, their 11 intentions, and their judgements with regard to the context surrounding them and the consequences of their actions.

Yet, postmodernists are right when they claim that the audience may find unintended and unexpected signification in one's statements Waismann However, Umberto Eco 36 has suggested there are norms that may help limit the number of interpretative options since there are always interpretations that are more economical than others. It is therefore possible through interpretative practices to propose an accurate view of a person's intention in uttering a statement Foucault Weldon 19 states that "words do not have meanings in the required sense at all; they simply have uses. To know their meaning is to know how to use them correctly.

Brutus's murdering Caesar, for instance, probably had several contradictory meanings political, emotional, etc. Although the act is the same—murder—the political reality and the political consequences resulting from it are at least partially determined by the way the actor talks about it. Thus, it is by studying the political context that I will try to understand why political actors used the word "democracy" as they did. I will also examine various sources of the time discourses, newspapers, diaries, letters, songs, etc. Similarly, Koselleck Tribe xxiii finds it useful to study "numerous witnesses, from Antiquity to the present: politicians, philosophers, theologians, and poets.

Unknown writings, proverbs, lexica, pictures, and dreams are interrogated. Eco, Skinner and Koselleck are therefore closer to the structuralists Fish ; A.

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Jefferson 87; Kurzweil and ; Laclau ; Said 40 than to the postmodernists Barthes ; Derrida ; Foucault ; Rosenau According to the structuralist view of language, people passively integrate vocabulary through the process of socialisation: they learn when and how to use the words, but also they learn to understand the reasons why one is using specific words in a particular situation de Saussure 30; Edelman and ; White It is also important to study what the Founders read about "democracy" and about other types of political regimes, since as James Farr 33 suggests, "concepts are never held or used in isolation, but in constellations which make up entire schemes or belief systems.

For instance, the use of a word like "democracy" always refers to related words like "monarchy," "aristocracy," and "anarchy. To understand the meaning of the term 'father' I have to understand the meaning of the terms 'mother', 'son', etc. This purely relational and differential character of linguistic identities means that language constitutes a system i n which no element can be defined independently of the others. To really understand the meaning of a word, one has to know the meaning of related words with which they share the same linguistic networks.

Moreover, one must kept in mind that very rare are the philosophers interested in politics who did not take part in the political debates and struggles of their time this is true for Plato, Cicero, Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Benjamin Constant, Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault. With regard to the era I will discuss, the political discourses are in many ways philosophical: political speeches are often very long and well structured, and refer extensively to history Athens, Sparta and Rome and to major philosophers Aristotle, Cicero and Montesquieu, for example.

Among the more influential texts of the time, several were written with the intention to produce political effects for instance: Paine's Common Sense, The Tederalist Papers, Sieyes's Qu'est-ce que le Tiers-Etat? Even though they dealt with philosophical issues, these texts were written by political actors who carefully chose their words accordingly to their political efficiency.

The ultimate proof that political words and labels had an important influence on political power relations was that to be labelled an "aristocrat" during the French Revolution could lead you to the guillotine. To sum up, my goal is to analyze the political history of the word "democracy" and to explain why and how politics, more than philosophy, influenced the way the Moderns use this word.

Of course, and since political philosophy and political philosophy are interwoven, changes in the meaning of the word "democracy" have everything to do with philosophy because the philosophical debates change but these philosophical changes are intimately linked to the political debates of their times. In this investigation, I am mainly concerned with the reasons explaining the alteration of the meaning of the word "democracy" since I believe with Alasdair Maclntyre that "to alter concepts whether by modifying existing concepts or by making new concepts available or by destroying old ones, is to alter behaviour.

This is the reason why this dissertation has a chronological structure. Why Do Political Labels Matter?