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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Jeffrey Kopstein

POL101Y1: Lecture Two. Constant and the Rise of Liberalism. - Portraying the theorist at his or her best. - Constant articulates a view that most of us are brought up, are familiar with. Not everything is applicable, but most of it is – most things are brought forward that we can identify with. - About Constant: intellectual, feverent liberal. - Context: Mainly French revolution (1789-1792/early 1800s) and it’s aftermath. - Questions how people should govern themselves. - If you are to be ruled by yourselves – what does that mean, how should free people govern themselves? A key question of political modernity? Provoked Constant: stocktaking. Of how we lived, the conceptions we were living by, before the event. And how does that compare with the way we think we should live today and how politics is defined arguably for the next two centuries. What Constant tells us: The modern conception of liberty is the freedom from tyranny. Our notion of freedom is: essentially to be left alone, to be not told what to do. Model Rejected: The model of the Ancients. - 2500 years ago. Liberty of the Ancients: - Participatory, in ruling and being ruled. To participate in legislation and in public life. The need to be involved in the greater public, what it meant to be a citizen. And those who did not participate were not citizens. - As a citizen you did not have people representing you- and they were directly involved in public life. - “Public” not “Private” Liberty: Ancients viewed it as the freedom of the collective, the freedom of Athens (even mentioned Sparta), not allowing the community to be dominated. - Direct participatory citizenship in public life. - View the collective as having a personality independent of the individual, as the private. - Freedom of the community – means self-government. Questioning if they govern themselves. - Freedom is collective and direct – in particular many parts of the functioning government. - Dependence upon a class of people who did not work or were involved in commerce – essentially slaves. - They talk about making war. - The aim of the ancients was to share the social power present amongst the citizens of the country – this was known as ‘liberty’ - Constant says the government has rejected all of this. This is no longer the case for modern governments. - French Revolution 1789; political freedom was only there during the Greeks. - Exclusion of the Middle Ages in Ancient Liberty. - Monastic Aristocracy – Characteristic of Spartan government, in no way a representative style. Limited power of the kings, in particular by the magistrates. - Authority was limited to not just political terms but also religious – in terms of actual administration within the government i.e. executive power. - Ancients considered the idea of forming new alliances, discussing ideas of war and peace, pronounce judgments, examine the accounts and acts of the magistrates, call the magistrates concerned to the forefront of the assembly and conclude with either condemning or acquitting them: contributed to their idea of ‘liberty’ - However visualized no inconsistency between this concept of liberty and collective freedom along with the subjection of the freedom of the individual to the authority group concerned. - Individual is sovereign in his public affairs but a slave in his private relations. - Commerce then was considered a lucky accident; a mere calculation as compared to war, which was an impulse. - The subjection of the individual, which was characteristic of the centuries of the Roman Empire, the individual was lost in the Empire whilst the citizen was lost in the city. 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 a metaphor.” – Isaiah Berlin. “Two Concepts of Liberty” “… Be very wary of any decree claiming to achieve the reconciliation of livery and quality. It is either a lie or a tyranny.” – Berlin. The Hedgehog and the Fox. - Not so much “freedom to” as “Freedom from” - Legal protection. - Limited government - Freedom is individual rather than communal aka individualism. - Driven by commerce and private property – regulated by legislation (procedural). - Freedom does not guarantee you a standard of living. - They mean a society based on markets, on limited governments. - Representative government is a modern discovery, where the prior condition of the human race and its antiquity made it impossible for the establishment and implementation of such an institution. The basis of liberalism for Constant was minimalist, rather than complex. (Following the simplification of concepts d
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