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Lecture 2

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Political Science
Jeffrey Kopstein

Lecture 2 (Constant and the Rise of Liberalism) Benjamin Constant – Swiss born French intellectual and politician (1767 – 1830) His context was the French Revolution and its aftermath. His major question was how should free people govern themselves? Which is “freedom” better characterized as: Freedom “from tyranny” or Freedom “to pursue your life plan” Constant looked for a tangible reference to self government which was not very existent at this time. He looked to the Liberty of the Ancients: - Government and legislation was participatory and direct - This process was “public” not “private”, however not everybody was a citizen - Participating in politics meant looking out for the overall well-being of the public and not for individual interests - Freedom meant freedom of the community – self government - Freedom, according to the Ancients, was a collective concept - Dependent upon a class of people who didn’t engage in commerce or even work, i.e. citizens - The big public decisions were decisions on war The Liberty of the Moderns The liberty of the moderns has to do with “freedom from” rather than “freedom to” (Isaiah Berlin) Liberty of the Moderns: - Legal protections - Limited government - Freedom is individual rather than communal - All driven by “commerce” and private property instead of war. *Major difference between ancient and modern liberty Contradictions of Constant Liberalism is designed to ensure we can pass an
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