In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the concept of sociability was used mainly to refer to the putative range of primary human qualities or capabilities that preceded—or existed independently of—the formation of political societies. This article is an examination of the impact of Rousseau's thought on this then standard usage. Its initial focus is on Rousseau's concept of perfectibility and its bearing on the thought of Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet, and Friedrich Schlegel. Its broader aim is to show (...) how their respective responses to Rousseau were part of a more deep-seated transformation of the concept of sociability itself. (shrink)
The article provides an analysis of Georg Ludwig Schmid's ‘Reflexions sur l’Agriculture’, which was published as the first essay in the first issue of the publications of the Oeconomical Society of Berne, founded in 1759. Schmid connected the agricultural improvement movement of the time to the logic of international power competition that caused the 7 Years’ War and wished to preserve political economy as agronomy for the cause of peace and virtuous economic progress. In his essay on commerce and luxury, (...) he devised a patriotic political economy based on the notion of a marche naturelle, or a natural progress of opulence, which enabled statesmen and political economists to separate the productive from the pathological features of economic development, healthy and necessary growth from luxury. Adam Smith deployed a similar model in the Wealth of Nations but argued that Europe's retrograde development was so fundamental and comprehensive that it made it impossible to use this kind of natural progress model on its own as a meaningful guide for comprehensive economic and political reform. (shrink)
Tracing the origins of modern political thought through three sets of arguments over history, morality, and freedom In this wide-ranging work, Michael Sonenscher traces the origins of modern political thought and ideologies to a question, raised by Immanuel Kant, about what is involved in comparing individual human lives to the whole of human history. How can we compare them, or understand the results of the comparison? Kant’s question injected a new, future-oriented dimension into existing discussions of prevailing norms, challenging their (...) orientation toward the past. This reversal made Kant’s question a bridge between three successive sets of arguments: between the supporters of the ancients and moderns, the classics and romantics, and the Romans and the Germans. Sonenscher argues that the genealogy of modern political ideologies—from liberalism to nationalism to communism—can be connected to the resulting discussions of time, history, and values, mainly in France but also in Germany, Switzerland, and Britain, in the period straddling the French and Industrial revolutions. What is the genuinely human content of human history? Everything begins somewhere—democracy with the Greeks, or the idea of a res publica with the Romans—but these local arrangements have become vectors of values that are, apparently, universal. The intellectual upheaval that Sonenscher describes involved a struggle to close the gap, highlighted by Kant, between individual lives and human history. After Kant is an examination of that struggle’s enduring impact on the history and the historiography of political thought. (shrink)
Physiocracy is still sometimes seen as an oddly archaic programme of agricultural development. The aim of this paper is to show that one of the Physiocrats’ prime concerns was to take the subject of agriculture out of international relations. The fiscal regime that was central to Physiocracy was designed to make every large territorial state self-sufficient and, by doing so, to break the connection between modern great power politics, the international division of labour, and the politics of necessity. From this (...) perspective, the memorandum that Victor Riqueti, marquis de Mirabeau, sent to the Berne Economic Society in 1759, contains an early indication of what, had the Physiocratic programme ever been implemented in full, a world reformed on Physiocratic lines might have looked like. (shrink)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's attack on the natural jurisprudence of Grotius, Hobbes and Pufendorf is well known. But what happened to modern natural jurisprudence after Rousseau not very well known. The aim of this article is to try to show how and why it turned into what Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès called “social science” and the bearing that this Rousseau-inspired transformation has on making sense of ideology, or the moral and political thought of the late eighteenth-century French ideologues.
The abbe Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes distinguished himself as the chief theoretician of the French Revolution--and as a revolutionary constitutional and social theorist in his own right--through his rigorously analytical theory of representative government and its corollary, the representative character of social life in general. He expressed the essence of his thought in a series of three pamphlets published in the months leading up to the meeting of the Estates-General in 1789. This volume presents all three essays--_Views of the Executive Means_, (...) _An Essay on Privileges_, and _What Is the Third Estate?_--in their entirety. The third essay, in a new translation by Michael Sonenscher, is followed by Sieyes's 1791 newspaper debate with Tom Paine on the merits of monarchy versus republicanism. Elucidated by Sonenscher's insightful Introduction, these texts will fascinate anyone interested in the history of the French Revolution, the history of social and political thought, or the origins and character of modern liberalism. (shrink)