Sep 24 Lecture
Constant and the Rise of
Benjamin Constant (1767-1830)
Swiss born, French intellectual and politician
Context: French Revolution and its aftermath
Question: how should free people govern themselves?
- Considered today as ‘conservative’
- Considered in his day a ‘liberal’
- Liberalism meant in that day: FREEDOM
- Monarchy based on idea of inheritable rule- his father
- Problem of revolution- you replace government, then what?
- This was a social revolution
- What will FREEDOM really be?! Institutions?
Which is “freedom” better characterized as?
A. Freedom “from tyranny”
B. Freedom “to pursue your life plan”
- Constant argued “A”, classic liberalism
Liberty of ancients:
Participatory: freedom consisted in act of government and being governed
Direct: when questions of the day would come up, everyone would
“Public” not “private liberty” : not freedom individually, we all get to do what
we want to do (modern)
Freedom of the community- self government: not rules by foreigners,
freedom of the community AS A WHOLE, not ruled necessary by a hereditary
monarch, DIFF. between PRIVATE and PUBLIC freedom
Freedom is COLLECTIVE- ancient notion
Dependent upon a class of people who didn’t engage in commerce or even
True freedom does not come in the household- household realm of women
Only very small portion were actually citizens engaging in public rule
Big decisions were decisions on war These collective decisions are with us today too! BUT our parliaments
deliberate other things!
Collective notions of freedom- still with us.
Ancient conception of collective liberty: ex: if USA conquered us we would
not feel freedom and liberty even under a good presidential reign with
freedom rights. We would consider ourselves a conquered people, this being