POLS 1000 Lecture Notes - Negative Liberty, Montesquieu, Class Conflict

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In relation to Ch. 3, “the movement of equality”
-Manent calls it the movement of equality
-equality is the bond that holds our societies together
-last week’s lecture stated that our world exists through an organization
of separations and that these separations are imperative for our
-to Montesquieu, we must be weary of power for men with power will
only want more power, and to stop power, an equal power must be used
-in Montesquieu’s mind, these divisions of power must be equal, if a
power is to be stopped, it can only be stopped by a power of equal
power, thus the three major powers of executive, legislative, and
judiciary must be equal
-thus these three powers must be confrontational, otherwise they may
start working together, and two powers may overpower an singular
-thus not only does power have to be equal they must be in
confrontation with one another
*-side note: for Montesquieu, the judiciary is not as important as the
other two
-when powers are obliged to stop the other power, than the powers are
to compromise
-the result of this compromise will not be negative for modern freedom,
should allow for a widening of modern liberties
-now the idea of these three powers should be confrontational and be of
equal power raises many questions
-if the powers are equal; would the government not be paralyzed?
-in 1995, the Congress shut down Clinton’s government by not paying
the employees
-thus the powers paralyzed each other
-in any case, the paralysis did not last, and as Montesquieu stated,
necessity actually forced a compromise; it forced the Congress and
Executive to reach a compromise as the paralysis was unacceptable t
-thus the need to find a compromise demonstrates that not one of the
three powers in sovereign
-and the need to move ahead/necessity becomes sovereign: the
necessity of having a functioning government overrides everything else
-because the community is divided between equal and competing
powers, individuals will thus be unable to do much harm to the other
-we can say that political power itself becomes harmless due to this
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-when there is a curtailing of one power, it can be seen as the rise of
another power
-seeks to neutralize political power, becomes impotent due to these
separations and becomes the base for the new freedom generated by
these divisions:
1.-freedom known as the liberty of the moderns (economic +
2.-this liberty is thus opposed to the liberty of the ancients (political)
-the liberty of the moderns turns away from the political (no need to self
affirm through the political), thus if you are interested in self affirmation
you will turn to the economy or to culture
-ancient liberty is experienced by and through political participation
(isonomy), thus ancient (positive) liberty is freedom within politics while
modern (negative liberty) is freedom without politics
-each one of these separations represents a danger to society because
society could impose or expose in terms of its unity
-all of the major opponents of democracy and change have argued that
these separations and divisions will actually end up destroying society
-ex: the separation of powers was denounced by conservative
adversaries of democracy, as it deprived society of a higher principle of
-conservatives will say that the separation of powers denies us a king,
and a society without a king would mean never-ending civil war
-historically speaking the conservatives were wrong that the separations
of power did not lead a to a disillusionment
-it’s actually been quite stable, and has served well in terms of political
harmony and longevity
-however, the question by the conservatives raised is legitimate, thus
the real question becomes what keeps our society united despite the
separation of powers that govern our life?
>what commits us to stay together despite everything that divides us?
-because liberty is one of our two major authorities, and thus liberty is
what keeps us together
-to Montesquieu liberty is the ultimate consequence of the doctrine of
the separation of powers
-however the effects of liberty are divisive
-ex: economic liberties (right to private property) actually lead to the
increase in the gap between the rich and the poor
-thus if we were to argue that liberty is what keeps us together, than
economic liberties is what keeps us together, and the gap does not
destroy us but rather keeps us united
-thus there is a problem in terms of economic liberties, as they do not
lead to unity, rather class struggle and disillusionment
-moral liberty could also erode the family, and this erosion can lead to
more divisions etc.
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