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Monday September 20
Constant & The Rise of Liberalism
Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) *French Revolut ion
•swiss born, french intellectual &politician
•Q: how should free people govern themselves?
•Rejected the democracy model (Greek)
Liberty of anicents:
•direct- no respesentives, they spoke for themselves
•“Public” not “private” “liberty”
•War: public- you're going to war private- we are going to war
•freedom of the community- self government
•freedom is collective
•dependant upon a class of people who didnt engage in commerce or even work. (ie.slaves and
•big decisions were decisions on war.
•Commerce is more impor tant than war as you don't get r ich going to war.
Liberty of moderns
•not so much “freedom to” as “freedom from” - no state should tell me what to do
•legal protections- intrusion by anyone and government
•limited government (power)
•freedom is individual (rather than communal)
•all driven by com merce and private property instead of war.
Contradictions of Constant
•modern liberty is better than anicent liberty and pre-modern “depotism” (French Kings)
•moderns care more about freedom from
•We prefer representatives to direct involvement.
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