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Lecture 3

POL101 Lecture 3- Constant & LIberalism .docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Jeffrey Kopstein

Lecture 3 Kopstein 9/23/2013 8:06:00 AM Constant and the Rise of Liberalism o Benjamin Constant is an important thinker of the 19 thcentury  Swiss born, French intellectual and politician  Fervent liberal; he believed in freedom.  Context: French revolution and its aftermath  Question: How should free people govern themselves? There are no models to work from.  Constant is a classic liberal who believes in individual freedom o Is my freedom to do whatever I want free from your interference? o Constant had nothing to go by he was working fro scratch. The notion of self-government was what Constant looked at first. He looked at Ancient Greece (that was the first to be self-governed) o What the ancients meant by liberty was that:  Participation- all citizens participated in government.  Direct- you were directly involved in the deliberation of the legislative process.  “Public” not “private liberty”- what they meant was that your deliberations were not controlled by a higher party. You were not dominated by someone else.  It was a public freedom that stated that you would not participate in politics for your own private benefits, but for collective benefits for everybody.  Self-government- freedom of the community  Freedom for the ancients was a collective concept, rather than an individual one  Dependent upon a class of people who didn’t engage in commerce or even work  Big decision were decisions on war  In the ancients the really big debates are all about war and peace Liberty of the Moderns o Isaiah Berlin argued that ancient Greece’s liberty of freedom was the freedom to do stuff. o Modern freedom is largely “freedom from” not “freedom to” o Legal protection o We think of governments, but we think of limited governments o There were no limits in the ancient time o Modern world associates freedom with government of limits o Freedom is individual rather than communal o While individuals have individual freedoms, society can’t exist that way. It needs to be exist as a community o All driven by “commerce” and private property instead of war o It’s not all about war. It’s about structuring a society towards commerce, trade, business, markets o We live in a commercial society; in which everything, your education, the structure of the family, etc. is all structured around commerce o The kind of government that we have is really all designed Contradictions of Constant
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