Sismonde de Sismondi's aristocratic republicanism

European Journal of Political Theory 12 (2):153-174 (2013)
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This article shows through Sismonde de Sismondi’s work how peculiarly modern issues like the revolution, equal political rights (universal suffrage) and an industrial and commercial society contributed to renewing the identity of republicanism. That renewal took place in Europe, after the French Revolution, and in a direct confrontation with democracy rather than liberalism. The problem in relation to which Sismondi reflected on the institutions of political liberty, the republican constitution and the role of individual liberty was the unstoppable growth of equality, political and social. In his work, republicanism was intended as an answer against the emergent democratic transformation of society, with a role of moderating equality, dividing and bridling popular sovereignty and containing the immoderate propensities of democracy. The modern threat to liberty did not originate from the power of the few or of the one, but from that of the many. It originated in the majoritarian principle on which democracy relies necessarily. This principle, the republican Sismondi argued, contains the seed of the suppression of minorities, that is to say of individual liberty



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Nadia Urbinati
Columbia University

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