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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Joseph Wong

Constant and the Rise of Liberalism Lecture Two Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) - Swiss born, Fr intellectual & politician - Fervent liberal - Context; Fr Rev and its aftermath o Made everyone politically equal o Wanted dem. But had nothing to base of except Greece o Thought wrong way to go, model had not been in action for over 2000 yrs - Question: how should free people govern themselves? o Its one thing to overthrown monarch, other thing to say what are you going to substitute that monarch w/ Model Rejected - Liberty of ancients: - Participatory: all citizens took time to participate, it was something not that simply that you had to do but that you wanted to do - Direct: no elected rep.s, they direct discussed and partook in the legislation - “Public” not “Private Liberty” freedom of collective, freedom of community, no private freedom like today. Greek conception of liberty is that community would make decisions, not a king or tyrant. Society is free; the people would decide whether or not they went to war, not a king telling them to do so. No rights to say what you want or dress how you want. - Freedom is the freedom of the community, not the person—self government - Freedom is collective - Dependent upon a class of people who didn’t engage in commerce or even work; Greek citizenry didn’t have to work because had slaves to do so, didn’t have to take care of household because they had women to do so. o How could society based on commerce, trade, etc. be contructed w/ polit. institutions w/ vast majority of ppl be enslaved? o No slavery in Fr itself o Fr much bigger than the city-states of Gr - Big decisions were decisions on war – that was the most important thing Gr did; most important thing we do is trade/commerce. Must create peaceful conditions, prosperity based on trade Liberty of Moderns - “Fundamental sense of freedom is freedom from chains, from imprisonment, from enslavement by others. The rest is extension of this sense, or else metaphor” Isaiah Berlin - “…be very wary of any decree claiming to achieve the reconciliation of liberty and equality: it is either a lie or tyranny.” Berlin - Not so much “freedom to” as “freedom from” - Legal protections – person is protected - Limited gov’t (doesn’t exist in ancient) should be limited, personal freedom - Freedom is individual rather than communal, we think of freedom as individuals, not political - All of this is driven by “commerce” and private property instead of war: the need to trade, need to have laws to protect trade, education to ensure that citizens understand their liberty Contradictions of Constant - (every thinker worth reading is contradictory) - Modern liberty is better both than ancient liberty and pre-modern “despotism” (French Kings): ancient, tyranny = inevitable, killing off the morons isn’t a good idea either. Collectively care if we vote, but individually we don’t care if we vote - Moderns care more about “freedom from” - We prefer “representative” to “direct government” that just leaves us alone to be happy and get rich - BUT he hedges his bets at end of the lecture - “The danger for modern lib is that we, absorbed in the enjoyment of our private independence and the pursuit of our particular interest, might surrender too easily our r
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