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"Twilight of the Empire" in the First-and-a-half Wave of Modernization:The Failure of Reforms in France and Spain,1700-1789
Pages: 122-154+159-160
Year: Issue:  3
Journal: World Economics and Politics

Keyword:  reformfiscal crisisinterest solidificationstate capacitycolony;
Abstract: By using a completely new analytic framework,this paper explores the modernization process of France and Spain in the so-called "first-and-a-half wave of modernization" from 1700 to 1789.The 18 th century has witnessed the top-down Bourbon reform in France and Spain,which aimed to pursue power and plenty,in the context of the Enlightenment and fiscal crisis after several defeats.France and Spain pushed forward reforms in three aspects,namely political,economic and fiscal.Politically,these two countries tried to restore central authority;economically,they opened markets in a certain extent;fiscally,they endeavored to overcome the fiscal crisis by taxing privilege class and financial retrenchment.Unfortunately,in both countries,these reforms failed because of the obstructions from privilege classes and severe external environments.But the failures of reforms in France and Spain resulted in different endings.With a strong state capacity to mobilize the whole country,the French reform provoked resistance of the nobility based vested interests which resulted in the collapse of the ancient regime and then caused the French Revolution.By contrast,Spain lacked enough state capacity and resolve which was weakened by colonial wealth to proceed with radical reforms.After the failure of the reform in Spain,reformers tried to control and exploit the colonies as a remedy to domestic crisis.But this eventually caused the disintegration of the Spanish colonial empire in the 19 th century.
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