A Revolutionary Epideictic: Debt and Community in Karl Marx’s The Civil War in France
Abstract: This essay reads The Civil War in France, Karl Marx’s account of the 1871 Paris Commune, as an example of revolutionary epideictic rhetoric that takes debt as a central unifying trope. Marx deploys the rhetoric of debt as a synecdoche to unify diverse French and international political constituencies around the political project of the Paris Commune. Simultaneously, in the wake of the Commune’s destruction, the trope of debt allows Marx to signal the political potential of the Commune outside its immediate context, inviting thinkers and activists after Marx’s time to invest in the Commune’s project in new and creative ways. I argue that this reading of The Civil War in France contributes to conversations about revolutionary community within Marxian rhetorical studies, as well as furthering discussions of the links between epideictic rhetoric and social change.