Google Preview

The Paradise of Association

Political Culture and Popular Organizations in the Paris Commune of 1871
Martin Phillip Johnson
Combines a detailed social analysis of club militants with a "new cultural history" perspective.


The Paradise of Association is the first comprehensive treatment of the tumultuous revolutionary clubs in the Paris of 1871. It proposes an innovative approach to the Paris Commune, the largest urban uprising in modern European history. For Marx and Lenin the Commune was a brilliant harbinger of proletarian dictatorship; for others, it was merely the last of the nineteenth-century revolutions. The Paradise of Association argues instead that the Commune resulted from revolutionary action by popular clubs, and it was shaped by the unique political culture fostered within them. The volume combines a detailed social analysis of 733 club militants with a "new cultural history" perspective, examining the language and practices of popular organizations in relation to such topics as historical memory, gender difference, definitions of citizenship, and revolutionary symbolism.

The first study of popular organizations during the Commune to take full advantage of the abundant archival materials, this book reveals previously unsuspected coordination and consciousness by revolutionaries in preparation for a seizure of power.

"Clubistes" were socially diverse individuals very likely to have a history of revolutionary activity. They did not constitute a social class, but rather a culturally and politically defined revolutionary community. A prominent feature of the political culture of popular organizations was the cult of revolutionary violence, based upon the memory of the French Revolution. By dominating the Commune, club militants imposed their political culture upon the nascent revolution and upon the capital.

This new perspective on the Commune entails revising several assumptions about the development of socialism and the evolution of party structures and popular movements in the late nineteenth century. It will be of interest to historians, to those interested in the relationship between popular culture and politics, and to researchers and students of gender relations and class dynamics in revolutionary movements.

Martin Johnson is Lecturer in History, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . ambitious and provocative. . . . [T]his book should be on the shelf of everyone interested in the history of revolutions in France. Johnson provides a crucial and valuable lesson for future leftist movements on the importance of association and sociability."
  • "Martin Johnson . . . offers a fresh theoretical perspective, original research, and a lively rereading of the Commune's long and crowded historiography. . . . [T]his book should be on the shelf of everyone interested in the history of revolutions in France. Johnson provides a crucial and valuable lesson for future leftist movements on the importance of association and sociability."
    --H-France Review of Books
  • "With the publication of Martin Phillip Johnson's The Paradise of Association, the torch of scholarship on the Paris Commune is passed to a younger generation of historians, and it sheds light in many unexpected directions. This is the most important book on the Commune to come along in more than a quarter of a century. . . . More than that, it may well be the single most insightful book on the Commune ever written. . . . Clearly this is a book for scholars. Once the recognition of its value spreads, it will become required reading for anyone wishing to understand the most cataclysmic event in nineteenth-century French history."
    --History: Reviews of New Books
  • "With detailed research and analytical skill, Johnson has pared away familiar interpretive paradigms to cast the Commune in a fresh light."
    --Journal of Interdisciplinary History
  • "Johnson's book may not have put to rest the traditional debates over the origins and meaning of the Paris Commune, but he has cast these and many other key issues in a fresh and interesting light."
    --Journal of Modern History, Volume 71, No. 3, September 1999
  • "Combining social with textual analysis, Johnson stresses the fundamental role of locally-based clubs in the Commune's central civilian and military councils, in its city and town halls, and in its mass demonstrations and rallies. . . . Martin Phillip Johnson's important work provides us with a persuasive reinterpretation of the Commune and also indicates how central categories of historical analyses might be recast along institutional and network lines. As active elements in history, citizen and class need to be conceived not as properties of individuals but as properties embedded in institutions or networks. As they become embedded in specific structures, the meanings of citizenship and class and other social categories are necessarily modified, corresponding less to a historical abstract schema but becoming more empirically useful categories. Johnson's work shows the riches to be won by such endeavors."
    --Journal of Social History

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 336pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1997
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10724-7

Add to Cart
  • $85.00 U.S.