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Lecture 2

POL101 - Lecture 2 Constant and the Rise of Liberalism.docx

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Political Science
Jeffrey Kopstein

Constant and the Rise of Liberalism Benjamin Constant (1767-1830)  Swiss born, French intellectual and politician  Fervent Liberal  Context: French Revolution and aftermath. If you are not ruled by a hereditary King and are rulers of one self, how should a free people govern themselves?  Constant believes that our idea of freedom is best characterized as freedom from tyranny. Model Rejected  Liberty of ancients:  The ancient‟s freedom was participatory: to participate in legislation, voting, etc.  It was direct: you were directly involved in it, no one was able to represent you.  Viewed liberty as „public‟ not „private.‟ It was a collective not an individual notion of freedom.  Freedom of the community-self government  Freedom is collective  Dependent upon a class of people who didn‟t engage in commerce or even work.  Ex. Ukraine today is it free? If it‟s controlled by Russia then it is not free, however if it is not the captive of Russia – Ukraine collectively governs itself? Then Ukraine is free.  Ex. Canada is not free because we have a representative government; economically dominated by the U.S. Technically according to the ancients we are not free. Liberty of Moderns  “The 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, Two Concepts of Liberty.  “…be very wary of any decree claiming to achieve the reconciliation of liberty and equality: it is either a lie or a tyranny.” – Berlin, The hedgehog and The Fox  Not so much “freedom to” as “freedom from”( Isaiah Berlin)  Legal protections  Limited, representative government  Freedom is individual rather than communal: liberty is the liberty of the individual.  All driven by “commerce” and private property instead of war  Constant says that the freedom that we have chosen is a society based on markets, individual freedom, limited government. Capitalism purports freedom? Contradiction of Constant  Modern liberty is better bother than ancient liberty and pre-modern “despotism” (French Kings)  Moderns care more about “freedom from”  “The danger for modern liberty is that we, absorbed in the enjoyment of our private independence and the pursuit of our particular interests, might surrender too easily our
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