It will probably be said, that the revival of this mode of establishing political liberty would have all the effect of innovation; and that innovations, even on the most perfect principles, are hurtful, because they press on the prejudices of the people. This is always the shallow pretence of political Jesuitism. The throne is daily innovating; while every step presses out the blood of the most industrious and excellent among the people. A standing army is an innovation against the prepossessions, habits, and judgement, of every independent man in the nation; and yet it has been established. Is it to be imagined, the people will object to the very little trouble attending to such an arrangement, as will afford them an intire security against the encroachments of the Crown, and the depredations of fluctuating parties in their legislature, who plunder them in succession? If they were to arm themselves slightly, they would also have a police on the best footing; and be perfectly secured against the collusions of thieves and thief-takers, watchmen, constables, church-wardens, overseers, trading justices, and the whole train of expensive appendages to the science of robbery.
Archive for the 'c18' Category
An attractive feature of conversations is that we can continue them at the point where our predecessors left them. The only restriction I would place on such freedom, speaking as an intellectual historian, is that the conversations should be between interlocutors who were genuinely aware of each other’s existence and arguments. This rules out those encounters in which the historian acts as ominiscient host at a kind of celestial cocktail party at which those invited only speak to one another through the intermediation of the host -- indeed, can only speak through the host because they had no common language in life. I shall appear to break this rule in one respect only, namely by posing some counter-factual questions of my cast in some crucial instances. In other words, having established that a genuine conversation was taking place, I shall sometimes seek to reconstruct what their responses might have been when more direct evidence is unavailable. Interesting conversations are usually free from the coercive dualisms that tend to be an occupational hazard of much intellectual history devoted to political thinking. Whigs and Tories have long since been replaced by debating teams bearing more sophisticated labels such as contractarians and anti-contractarians, liberals versus classical republicans, civic humanists versus natural jurisprudentialists, and so on -- to mention only those dualisms that are current among students of the period and authors I shall be considering. Narratives that purport to be dealing with past social scientific conversations often attempt to enforce another powerful dichotomy -- between positive and normative propositions, between statements of fact and statements of value or rights. As already hinted, one of the negative conclusions I would like to emerge from these lectures is that none of my cast was foolish enough to allow their conversations to be constricted by these dualisms. That is something we have done to them in retrospect and for our own purposes, taxonomic or ideological.
A writer may tell me that he thinks man will ultimately become an ostrich. I cannot properly contradict him. But before he can expect to bring any reasonable person over to his opinion, he ought to shew, that the necks of mankind have been gradually elongating; that the lips have grown harder and more prominent; that the legs and feet are daily altering their shape; and that the hair is beginning to change into stubs of feathers. And till the probability of so wonderful a conversion can be shewn, it is surely lost time and lost eloquence to expatiate on the happiness of man in such a state; to describe his powers, both of running and flying; to paint him in a condition where all narrow luxuries would be contemned; where he would be employed only in collecting the necessaries of life; and where, consequently, each man's share of labour would be light, and his portion of leisure ample.
(T. R. "Bob" Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1st ed. , pp. 11-12)
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, IV.i.8-10.
After setting down the true principles of political right and trying to found the state on its basis, it would remain to buttress the state by its external relations; which would include the right of nations, commerce, the right of war and conquest, public right, leagues, negotiations, treaties, etc. But all this forms a new object too vast for my short sight; I should always have fixed it nearer to myself.So we have to reconstruct Rousseau’s understanding of international politics from occasional remarks and inferences from other sources – and it remains the case that scholars down to this day continue to disagree over just how to understand Rousseau’s vision of international politics, both with respect to how he thought international relations actually worked, and with respect to whether they were reformable for the better. I think Rousseau’s most interesting departure from the Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s argument in the Abstract is his account of the basis of a genuinely European civil society. The Abbé focused on sovereigns and states, Rousseau on peoples. (The same substitution takes place in John Rawls’s contribution to the global justice debate.) Rousseau might have argued against there being a robust natural sociability, against the view that there was what he called a ‘general society of the human race’, but he thought that even without any formal international political institutions the countries of Europe did form ‘a sort of system among themselves which unites them by one single religion, the same international law, morals, literature, commerce, and a sort of equilibrium that is the necessary effect of all this, and which, without anyone in fact thinking about preserving it, would not be as simple to break up as many people think.’ But this European civil society isn’t robust enough to forestall war, in a world of multiple sovereignties. Rousseau canvassed three possible alternatives to war: empire (what I earlier called universal monarchy); the balance of power; and commerce. And he rejected all three. The conditions in modern Europe didn’t exist for one power to dominate the entire continent, as had happened in Roman times. A balance of power or ‘equilibrium’ couldn’t be reliably maintained among artificial institutions such as modern sovereign states. And commerce was a source of war, not an alternative to it, for
ideas about commerce and money have produced a sort of political fanaticism, they cause the apparent interests of all Princes to change so suddenly that one cannot establish any stable maxim based on their true interests, because now everything depends on economic systems, most of them extremely bizarre, which run through the heads of ministers.Having rejected these alternatives to war, then, the Abstract set out a simplified version of the Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s peace plan, reducing the scheme to five main principles (in place of Saint-Pierre’s original twenty eight). Did the plan for perpetual peace jeopardise national sovereignty? Rousseau argued in the Abstract that it did not. Princes would be forced by the plan to be ‘equitable and peaceful’, it was true, but then equity and peace were central objectives of any legitimate political institution, the content of any plausible general will. ‘By submitting their quarrels to the judgment of the [international] assembly and by depriving themselves of the dangerous power of seizing the property of others’, Rousseau continued, the princes of Europe ‘would only assure themselves of their real rights and renounce those that they do not have’. Liberty might be ‘alienated in the hands of a master, but it is strengthened in the hands of one's peers’. And the Abstract ended with a characteristic rhetorical flourish:
If we have reasoned well in the exposition of this project, it is demonstrated firstly that the establishment of perpetual peace depends solely on the consent of sovereigns and presents no difficulty other than their resistance... If, despite all of this, the project remains unfulfilled, it is not therefore because it is too idealistic; rather, it is because men are insane, and because it is a sort of folly to remain wise in the midst of those who are mad.What, then, did Rousseau go on to argue in the Judgment? In the Judgment, Rousseau rejected the plan for perpetual peace as unworkable. The problem lay in the way in which the Abbé de Saint-Pierre thought about political action. He thought rulers were rational agents who made sensible decisions in light of reasonable views about the interests of themselves and their populations. Saint-Pierre, that is to say, thought about politics the way that modern political scientists tend to. That was the problem. The typical European ruler wasn’t like that at all, but, rather, was ‘like a mad sailor who, in order to show off his knowledge and intimidate his crew, would prefer to drift dangerously among reefs during a storm than to secure his ship with an anchor’. Kings were gripped by the passion to dominate, at home and abroad, and war and tyranny were mutually reinforcing: in order to fight wars, kings would impose high taxes so that they could maintain large armies, and both the armies and the taxes would work to oppress the people further. And it just wasn’t the case, as Saint-Pierre had thought, that the power of rulers was a function of the well-being of the subordinate population. Rulers would, he thought, far rather rule over a large, miserable population than over a small and happy one, and they were prepared to take great risks with the lives and well-being of their subjects in order to try to extend the boundaries of their dominion. The Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s plan, therefore, just could not get off the ground. Scholars have argued among themselves as to whether Rousseau was entirely committed to this verdict. If the problem was that Saint-Pierre’s alliance of kings could not work, because they were kings, why couldn’t sovereign republican peoples confederate together in something like the manner in which Saint-Pierre described? If Europe became a Europe of republics, could the peace plan be made to work? Some think that this was Rousseau’s view. His Social Contract suggests that the only legitimate sovereignty is republican sovereignty; and some of his writings on the smaller or weaker states of Europe (Corsica, the Swiss cantons, Poland) suggest that their security might be preserved through confederal arrangements or defensive alliances with powers that were similarly situated in international geopolitics. But an important point (one pressed by the French scholar Céline Spector) is that we don’t have any reason to think that Rousseau thought that the monarchies of Europe like France or Britain could become republics. Rousseau basically inherited Montesquieu’s distinction between monarchies and republics, in which the former were large countries with unequal populations and the latter were small countries with much more substantial social and economic equality among the citizens. The Social Contract presented the fundamentals of republican political theory; the Considerations on the Government of Poland described how a weak monarchy might be reformed in order better to be able to preserve itself in the face of its neighbours’ imperial ambitions. But there was no recipe for turning monarchies into republics; and when Rousseau wrote in the Judgment of the plan for perpetual peace that, ‘We will not see federative leagues establishing themselves except by revolution’, it’s important to realise that Rousseau wasn’t actually calling for such a revolution. Contrary to his subsequent reputation as the godfather of the French Revolution, Rousseau was no kind of advocate of political revolution. He thought, quite rightly, that Europe was heading into an age of revolutions, but he didn’t think that any good would come of them—just the loss of an awful lot of innocent life. It wouldn’t be quite right to say that the disagreement between the Abbé de Saint-Pierre and Jean-Jacques Rousseau exactly mapped out the intellectual foundations of today’s European Union. The Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s plan for perpetual peace was, at its heart, a security community, a way of co-ordinating military force (whether or not its point was to kick the Turks out of Europe). And in postwar Western Europe, of course, it was NATO rather than the EEC which addressed organised security for most member-states, and the EU still struggles to develop robust institutions concerning foreign policy and security matters. But I think that it’s not wrong to say that Saint-Pierre and Rousseau were debating the question of European Union in a way that ought to make a great deal of sense to us today. Earlier debates about political unification in Europe belong to a completely different world – whether we look to the Roman ideologists of universal monarchy or to the mediaeval arguments about whether general jurisdiction belonged to the Pope or the Emperor. What Saint-Pierre and Rousseau were arguing about was whether there could be a powerful international body that was not quite a sovereign state of its own, which joined together the leading states of Europe, and which would promote internal commerce in a way that would foster peaceful relations rather than contributing to the causes of war—indeed, that would make war among Europe’s peoples unthinkable. And that is straightforwardly a description of the project that the founders of today’s European Union – Alexandre Kojève and the others – took themselves to be engaged in; indeed, that the elites in Brussels still take themselves to be engaged in. Who, then, of the Abbé de Saint-Pierre and Rousseau had the better of the argument? The Abbé de Saint-Pierre was famous in eighteenth-century Europe as one who peddled crazy, unworkable, cloud-cuckoo-land schemes. Two hundred years later, his dream has become as much of a reality as political dreams can ever plausibly hope to become. We might think that Rousseau was doubly wrong, then: wrong to think that the scheme was unachievable, and wrong to think that Europe’s monarchies could not, in the end, be republicanised – for the European Union took shape in the wake of the military defeat of the despotisms of Hitler and Mussolini, and its member states have always been parliamentary or presidential democracies of one kind or another. But this might be to move too fast. Rousseau argued that there could never be a stable confederation of kings, and we don’t have any reason to think him wrong on that score. And if we use the categories of Montesquieu’s political thought, as Rousseau did, then it’s not at all clear that what we have in Europe today are republics, as he could have understood them. Rather, they are reformed monarchies: large territorial regimes, with commercial economies, containing great levels of social and economic inequality, organised along constitutional lines, i.e., with bodies of fundamental law; but they’ve been reformed in such a way that we don’t really have the eighteenth-century-style monarchs anymore, with all the various problems that they bring with them. The British prime minister or the French president are somewhat monarch-like, given the extent of their legislative and executive powers; but they are not free to mess around with the security of Europe, in the way that kings once were; and their foreign-policy adventurism these days tends to take place well beyond the confines of the continent. And what would a theoretical sketch of a European monarchy without a traditional monarch look like? One might say, in fact, that one of the earliest sketches of such a regime is to be found in Rousseau’s Considerations on the Government of Poland. So I’m inclined to split the honours on this occasion between the Abbé de Saint-Pierre and Rousseau on the question of European Union, and to call it a score draw. Bibliography Primary Texts The Abbé de Saint-Pierre wrote a lot. The easiest place to find his ideas is in Charles Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre, A project for settling an everlasting peace in Europe… (London: Ferdinand Burleigh, 1714). There are two places to find Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s main texts on the Abbé de Saint-Pierre in English. One is in the Appendix to Grace G. Roosevelt’s book, Reading Rousseau in the Nuclear Age (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1991). The other is in volume 11 of the University Presses of New England edition of Rousseau’s Collected Works, which is The plan for perpetual peace, On the government of Poland, and other writings on history and politics, translated by Christopher Kelly and Judith Bush; edited by Christopher Kelly (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2005). The French texts are collected in the third volume of the Pléiade Oeuvres complètes de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Secondary Literature Istvan Hont, Jealousy of Trade (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), Introduction. Michael Sonenscher, Before the Deluge (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), pp. 108-20. Grace G. Roosevelt, Reading Rousseau in the Nuclear Age (as above) Grace G. Roosevelt, ‘Rousseau versus Rawls on International Relations’, European Journal of Political Theory, vol. 5, no. 3 (2006), pp. 301-320. Stanley Hoffmann, ‘Rousseau on War and Peace’, American Political Science Review, vol. 57, no. 2 (June 1963), pp. 317-333. And, especially, Céline Spector, ‘Le Projet de paix perpétuelle: de Saint-Pierre à Rousseau’, in Principes du droit de la guerre, Ecrits sur le Projet de Paix Perpétuelle de l’abbé de Saint-Pierre, Blaise Bachofen and Céline Spector, eds. (Paris: Vrin, 2008), pp. 229-294. [English pdf available here.]
It is one of the many strengths of Christopher Brooke’s fascinating new study, Philosophic Pride, that he is aware of the multifarious nature of his subject; he knows that he is dealing with a fluid cluster of ideas and themes, not as a unitary philosophical movement. Not that he has set out, in any case, to write a history of (Neo-)Stoicism; his task is both narrower and harder than that. The subject of this book is the relationship between Stoicism and early modern political thought; since there was scarcely such a thing as a worked-out body of Stoic political theory (unless we count Seneca’s fanciful portrayal of the monarchical ruler – Nero, of all people – extending the empire of reason), this means that an already elusive subject is considered here from a variety of oblique angles...It's a long review, too, filling all of p. 5.
The War whoop of anarchy, the Marseillais Hymn, is to my ear, I must confess, independently of all moral association, a most dismal, flat, and unpleasing ditty: and to any ear it is at any rate a long winded and complicated one. In the instance of a melody so mischievous in its application, it is a fortunate incident, if, in itself, it should be doomed neither in point of universality, nor permanence, to gain equal hold on the affections of the people.Bentham, Essays on the Subject of the Poor Laws, Essay III, in Michael Quinn, ed., Writings on the Poor Laws (Oxford, 2001), vol. 1, p. 136.