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Lecture

Democracy and Dictatorship Lecture III

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Department
Political Science
Course
POL101Y1
Professor
Jeffrey Kopstein
Semester
Fall

Description
Toneguzzo 1 POL101Y1: Democracy, Dictatorship, War and Peace PART I: Democracy and Dictatorship Lecture III – The Liberal Project  Based on the lecture by Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns.” o Benjamin Constant (1767 – 1830) – Swiss born, French intellectual. o Context: French Revolution and its aftermath – social revolution. o He is considered today as a conservative but in his time he was considered a fervent liberal. o Question: how should free people govern themselves? o Most liberals argue freedom is characterized as freedom “from tyranny” – not designed to give people freedom to do anything but to give freedom from a tyrant. o In the U.S constitution there are multiple points – the Supreme Court can stop the legislation from going through – to ensure the president is not tyrant. Model Rejected: o He considers himself a modern compared to the liberty of ancients – it is participatory; freedom consisted in the act of governing and being governed; participating in life. o It was direct – when questions of the day would come up everyone would participate; they didn’t have a legislature or separate body. o When the ancients spoke of liberty/freedom they spoke of “public” not “private liberty”. o Public liberty is the freedom of the individual to do what they wish without out infringing on the rights of other individuals. o Ex. Freedom of the community – self-government – not ruled by foreigners or those that are not of the community; not ruled by a hereditary monarch. o Freedom is collective; dependent upon a class of people who didn’t engage in commerce or even work. o Household was the realm of women and slaves – divided. o Big decisions were decisions on war; what they feared the most was foreign domination – the biggest threat to their freedom as a community. o Athenian democracy was all about the reasoning citizen. o States did not exist until 1648. o Public freedom is “irrelevant” to the modern world – by extension the West. Liberty of Moderns: o Not so much “freedom to” as “freedom from” – “The fundamental sense of freedom is freedom from chains, from imprisonment, from enslavement by others.” – Isaiah Berlin. o “…be wary of any decree claiming to achieve the reconciliation of liberty and equality: it is either a lie or a tyranny.” – Isaiah Berlin. Toneguzzo 2 o Legal protections and limited government – only has a certain claim for its authority; it is not all encompassing. Our citizenship rights do not exist in a hierarchy with our private rights – they are all in peace. o Freedom is individual rather than communal. o All driven by “commerce” and private property instead of war; society should be based on commerce and all conceptions of liberty should follow from this notion; the fundamental distinction from the ancients. o When we use the word constitution – essentially been a contract between government and people that limits the power of the government. o We cannot choose our own constitution but we can change out constitution. o Libertarians argue over equality of opportunity. Contradictions of Constant: o Modern is better both than ancient liberty and pre-modern “despotism” (French Kings). o Modern’s care more about “freedom from”; we prefer “representative” to “direct government” that just leaves us alone to be content and attain wealth. o BUT he hedges his bets at the end of the lecture – Constant believes that “freedom from” isn’t enough. o Liberty of the ancients creeps back in through modern notions of
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