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2023 | Book

Republicanism and Democracy

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About this book

This book discusses whether democracy and republicanism are identical, complementary, or contradicting ideas. The rediscovery of classic republicanism a few decades ago made it clear how profoundly modern notions of democracy had been shaped by the republican tradition. But defining these two concepts remains difficult, and the views diverge widely. The overarching aim of this book is to discuss the extent to which democracy and republicanism are identical, complementary or mutually contradicting ideals / ideas. Pursuing this open approach to the subject means calling into question a widely used formula according to which modern democracy is composed of liberal principles such as individualism, the rule of law and human rights, on the one hand, and of republican principles such as focusing on the common good and popular sovereignty, on the other. This book will appeal to students, researches, and scholars of political science interested in a better understanding of political theory and political history.

Table of Contents

Republicanism and Democracy: An Introduction
The overarching goal that unites us in our joint work is to discuss the extent to which democracy and republicanism are identical, complementary or even opposing ideals/ideas. We would like to explore whether modern democratic thought can be read simply as a continuation of republican ideas, or whether the democratic principles of liberty and equality for the design of political processes and institutions are not grounded in different traditions that go beyond republican discourse and thus represent a new understanding of the state, government and policymaking.
Skadi Siiri Krause, Dirk Jörke
Class Warfare in Guicciardini’s Considerations on Machiavelli: Alibis, Evasions, and Counter-Provocations
This paper examines Francesco Guicciardini’s various efforts to engage, evade, or protest Machiavelli’s arguments concerning social class, the constitution of liberty, and preferable forms of tyranny in his Considerations on Machiavelli’s Discourses (1530) (Guicciardini in The sweetness of power: Machiavelli’s discourses and Guicciardini’s considerations, Northern Illinois University Press, 2002, hereafter C) (Emendations to the translation are based on Guicciardini [Considerazioni intorno ai discorsi del Machiavelli. In Machiavelli, Discorsi, Einaudi, 1997]). As a prominent Florentine ottimato and a dutiful servant of Medici princes, Guicciardini might be fully expected to resist or refute Machiavelli’s frequent endorsements of the moral, cognitive, and even pragmatic superiority of peoples over nobilities and princes. Additionally, Guicciardini’s anti-popular orientation may have been inflamed at the time that he wrote the Considerations since he considered himself to be the potential victim of a vindictive, newly restored governo popolare in Florence. Aristocratic prejudices—inherent or circumstantial—aside, I hope to highlight the following: The manner in which Guicciardini disagrees with Machiavelli on class politics, republican institutions, and types of tyranny is just as illuminating as the positions he takes and the reasons he provides for doing so.
John P. McCormick
The Democratic Impulse in the English Revolution
In England, a shift in political discourse from monarchical sovereignty to parliamentary sovereignty and finally to popular sovereignty can be described in the first half of the seventeenth century. The Levellers, however, could not prevail with their approaches. The realization of democracy required far-reaching constitutional foundations and procedural preconditions, such as the safeguarding of individual and collective rights of freedom, the separation of powers, the rule of law, democratic electoral and rotation procedures, and so on. The debates presented here mark this path. At the same time, they mark a clear demarcation from the republican discourse of the time.
Skadi Siiri Krause
The Possibility of Democratic Republicanism: The Levellers, Milton, and Harrington
In the revolutionary England of the 1640s and 1650s, it was newly possible for non-monarchical and radical constitutional proposals to be put forward, in some cases drawing on a classical republican tradition; the idea of representative ‘democracy’ was simultaneously becoming established. This paper considers the Levellers, John Milton, and James Harrington, arguing that while they shared assumptions of popular sovereignty and electoral representation, they can be placed at very different positions on a spectrum between the poles of democracy and republicanism. Their very different constitutional proposals reveal different fears and different attitudes to the role the people should play within a representative system. While the Levellers proposed a clearly democratic system (in modern terms), they also expected an active and spirited people to keep representatives in check. Milton’s constitutional suggestions on the eve of the Restoration show the people as the threat and an aristocratic republicanism as at least a temporary defence. Harrington overtly embraced both the idea of ‘democracy’ and the heritage of the more aristocratic ancient and contemporary republics, forging a remarkable fusion of the two in spite of the anti-democratic elements present in early modern republicanism.
Rachel Foxley
Democracy in Algernon Sidney’s Discourses Concerning Government
This chapter is an attempt to trace and assess the treatment of democracy that is found in Algernon Sidney’s Discourses concerning government (1698). After an introduction including a historiographical analysis on the neglect of democracy in Sidney studies, this chapter is split into four main parts. First, as Discourses cannot be fully understood without reference to its polemical target, I outline the anti-democratic arguments found in Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha, or The Natural Power of Kings (1680). In the second part, I offer a textual study of democracy as it appears in Discourses, unpicking some of the nuances and rationale behind Sidney’s own anti-democratic statements. Thirdly, I reconstruct the broader framework of Sidney’s republicanism to suggest, despite major tensions, how Discourses does incline to democratic power and democracy, even in Sidney’s own words. Finally, however, I demonstrate significant and insidious exclusionary dimensions to Sidney’s politics. I conclude with some reflections on the perils and potentialities of a Sidneian republic.
Thomas Ashby
The Democratic Moment in the American Revolution
During the War of Independence, republican legitimation strategies were in the foreground. Republican arguments also played a major role in the establishment of the new republics and the disputes between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Nonetheless, the broad public discourse during the debates on the ratification of the new constitution opened up a new awareness of the role of the public. In the 1790s, this consciousness was reinterpreted democratically, not least through the democratic societies that now emerged. However, the importance of the public and the involvement of citizens in state and society was only theoretically worked up at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Skadi Siiri Krause
The American Founding: From Democratic to Aristocratic Republicanism
Prominent during the first years of the American Revolution were efforts to develop the theory and praxis of a “democratic” strand of republican thought. During the ratification debates, however, the genuinely anti-democratic notion of the republic strand outlined in the Federalist Papers upstaged these efforts. By retracing the key developmental steps of the political struggles between advocates of democratic and aristocratic republicanism, this paper argues that the true achievement of the Federalists consisted in managing to rhetorically combine their distinctive theory of representation for the virtuous elite with the revolutionary concepts of a popular government and an extended republic, all the while separating democracy from the latter.
Philip Dingeldey, Dirk Jörke
Democracy and Democratic Reform Impulses Before the French Revolution
Three pre-revolutionary discourses designed to limit the power of the central government in absolutist France are presented in this essay. Montesquieu explains in De l'éspit des loix that a modern constitutional state needs not only a horizontal separation of powers to effectively secure individual liberties, but also a vertical one to protect regional and local freedom. D’Argenson argues in his Considerations sur le gouvernement that a modern administration must be democratized in order to be able to act efficiently and close to the citizen on the one hand and to strengthen local freedoms in the spirit of Montesquieu on the other. Rousseau combines in his work the theorem of popular sovereignty, as he saw it completed in the constitutional state, with d’Argenson's approach and called for the democratization of government and administration. All three concepts became important when the US struggled to create a new federal republic. They were not used in France. Instead, revolutionaries here believed that the survival of the state depended on their ability to shape the general will of the nation. In this sense, they remained true to republican models and did not draw on the incipient theory of democracy.
Skadi Siiri Krause
Democratic Republicanism in the French Revolution
Representation belongs to the history of republics, yet is missing in contemporary theories of republicanism. According to the prevailing narrative, representation is not part of the democratic tradition, and its emergence in modern politics coincided with the neutralization of the people in the decision-making process. This story has veiled the existence of a lesser known history, of a democratic republicanism that sought to contain the absolute power of the crowd without resorting to a liberal-elitist form of representative government. This chapter goes back to that history. It analyzes the contributions of Thomas Paine and the Marquis de Condorcet to the merging of democracy and republicanism. They wanted to make representative government democratic by overcoming the polarization between representation and participation, and instead making them related forms of political action along the continuum of decision-making and opinion formation.
Nadia Urbinati
Republicanism, Democracy and History
Modern republican theory as presented by Philip Pettit and Quentin Skinner rests upon a particular set of interpretations of the history of political thought. In particular, it is claimed, Hobbes’s redefinition of liberty as the absence of interference, subsequently taken up by Bentham and other utilitarian and liberal theorists, eclipsed the older republican notion in which the freedom of citizens was necessarily tied to the freedom of the state of which they were members. This liberal account of liberty is then contrasted with the more democratic republican account, in which political participation is intrinsically linked to freedom from mastery. However, the historiography of this claim proves problematic. On the one hand, it overlooks the prominent role played by utilitarian and liberal assumptions and principles in the democratic arguments of philosophic radicals in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, it involves excluding Rousseau and Kant, central figures in the continental republican tradition, from the republican canon because of the way they drew on Hobbes’ account of sovereignty to develop an argument for a democratic social contract. Both these historical developments suggest that the liberal account of freedom may be less inimical to democracy and republicanism than modern republican thinkers such as Pettit, have claimed. Indeed, we suggest the second may offer the basis of the most compelling defence of democracy understood in republican terms.
Richard Bellamy, Albert Weale
Republicanism and Democracy
Skadi Siiri Krause
Dirk Jörke
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