Constant and the Rise of Liberalism
Benjamin Constant 1767-1830
Swiss born, French intellectual and politician
Constant is conservative
Constant talks about ancient vs. modern society
Context: French revolution and its aftermath
All revolution happened since the French one have been seen through the French
Key question of the political - how should free people govern themselves?
What is freedom better characterized as?
A freedom from tyranny (Freedom from) OR Freedom to pursue your things
2500 years ago, ancient Greece
Liberty of ancients – Rejected Model of Freedom
- Ancient politics was participatory
- Participating in ruling and being ruled, ex legislation, public life.
- People were willing to be a part of the great public, being a citizen meant to
It was direct. Direct involvement
Individual vs. Collective freedom
Constant saw that liberty was not personal and individual.
It was the freedom of the collective.
Community not to be dominated.
Freedom was a collective, not an individual notion.
Freedom of the community – self government. Ex. Greek is free if Greece
Freedom is collective.
According to the Greek definition Canada is not free. Canada is dominated by US - So
from Constant’s or ancient Greeks’ point of view Canada is not free. Dependent upon a class of people who didn’t engage in commerce or even
Householding – generating resources, making money, taking care of the
house Slaves in the ancient Greece were different. They enjoyed personal
freedoms, like owing business and education
Big decisions were decisions on war
Different conceptions of freedom
Isaiah Berlin - ‘’the fundamental sense of freedom is freedom of chains, from
imprisonment, from enslavement by others.”
Not as much “freedom to” as “ freedom from” (Isaiah Berlin)
Freedom is individual rather than communal
All driven by “commerce” and private property instead of war
In the ancient world war was the drive of the world and nowadays it is commerce.
Constant had a minimal notion of freedom.
In Berlins and Constant’s point of view freedom is not money. “You cant reconcile
liberty and equality” they are two different