Conservative Roots of Republicanism

in Theoria
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Republicanism is generally said to promote virtue and equal political participation, yet many historical republics and republican theories endorse the hierarchical political participation of the upper and lower social classes and recommend a centralised executive power. Republican constitutions incorporate the authority of the nobles, the freedom of the people and the political power of one man. Cicero formulates this understanding of the republic, which endures in the ideas of Machiavelli and Montesquieu. I characterise this school of thought as conservative because it promotes the preservation of the social hierarchy, private property and stability. Moreover, it harnesses change by advancing a policy of expansion. I challenge the mainstream Cambridge School interpretation by tracing the trajectory of conservative republican ideas in the thought of Cicero, Machiavelli and Montesquieu. Few interpretations relate the republicanism of these three thinkers to each other, hence this reading contributes a new way of thinking about republicanism.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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