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Hiding the GuillotinePublic Executions in France, 1870-1939$
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Emmanuel Taïeb

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501750946

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501750946.001.0001

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(p.224) Conclusion
Hiding the Guillotine

Emmanuel Taïeb

Cornell University Press

This concluding chapter summarizes the key points of the book. The year 1939, when executions moved behind prison walls and thus definitively exited the public stage, marked the beginning of remote governance, a new stage in the transformation of the public sphere: power no longer had to manifest itself directly, but could instead use various media platforms to assert itself. The disappearance of public executions also signaled the advent of the civilizing process, which sought to conceal anything that might provoke anxiety or negative emotions. The criticism levied at, and the final disappearance of, public executions illustrates a historical moment when a technology of power was gradually modified, eliminated, and concealed thanks to the efforts of the elites as well as, most likely, to the efforts of executionary spectators, because the emotions that executions unleashed were in contradiction with society's desire to reject violence. The elimination of publicity did not resolve the problem of violence in the Republic nor immediately solve the issue of the death penalty, which would drag on for another four decades, but it did demonstrate that people were no longer willing to tolerate a certain kind of state violence. It also revealed a phase in the evolution of the psychological landscape in which self-control came to be determined by the authorities and their instruments.

Keywords:   remote governance, death penalty, public executions, executionary spectators, state violence

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