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Studies in Socialism

a centre of energy, of conscience, and of action. And since, in periods of transformation, when old social ties are in process of dissolution, all human energies are of equivalent force, the law of the majority is necessarily decisive. A society takes on a new form only when the immense majority of the individuals who compose it demand or accept a great change.

This is self-evident in the case of the Revolution of 1789. It broke out and it succeeded only because an immense majority, one might say the entire country, wanted it. What did the privileged classes, upper classes and nobles amount to when confronted with the Third Estate of town and country? They were one atom, two hundred thousand against twenty-four million, one one-hundredth part of the whole. And besides, the clergy and nobles were divided among themselves and uncertain what to do. There were privileges that the privileged themselves did not defend. They were doubtful about their own rights and their power, and seemed to let themselves go with the stream. Royalty itself, driven into a corner, had to convoke the States-General though it feared them.

As for the Third Estate, the huge mass composed of labourers, peasants, the industrial middle class, the merchants, the leisure class living on income (rentiers), and the artisans, it was practically unanimous. It did not limit itself to protesting against royal absolutism or the parasitic