What were the social, economic, political and intellectual causes of the French Revolution?
Following were the social, economic, political and intellectual causes of the French Revolution:
Social - The social conditions in France in late 18th century were extremely unequal and exploitative. The clergy and the nobility formed the first two Estates and were the most privileged classes in the French society. They were exempt from payment of taxes to the State. On the other hand, the Third Estate that consisted of peasants and workers formed the majority of the population. They were burdened with excessive taxes with no political and social rights. As a result, they were extremely discontent.
Economic - As a result of a numerous wars waged by Louis XVI the State coffers were empty. The situation was made even more complex by France’s involvement in the American War of Independence and the faulty system of taxation. While the privileged classes were excused from paying taxes the Third Estate was more and more burdened with them.
Political - The Bourbon king of France, Louis XVI was an extremely autocratic and weak willed king who led a life of obscene luxury. This led to a lot of disenchantment among the masses who then were leading life of extreme poverty and widespread hunger.
Intellectual - The 18th century was marked by a conscious refusal by French thinkers of the ‘Divine Rights Theory’. Philosophers like Rousseau, rejected the paradigm of absolute monarchy and promulgated the doctrine of equality of man and sovereignty of people. They played a pivotal role in exposing the faultlines of old political system, i.e. the ancien regime , and articulating the popular discontent.