Classical Debates for the 21st Century

Classical Debates for the 21st Century: Rethinking Political Thought

Thomas O. Hueglin
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 297
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttkck
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Classical Debates for the 21st Century
    Book Description:

    "Hueglin is acutely attuned to novel aspects of contemporary political life, and his dialogues come to life in response to new political realities. The book is very learned, is structured in an ingenious way, and is full of great punch lines." - Ronald Beiner, University of Toronto

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0684-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Time to Rethink
    (pp. 1-14)

    Scientific globalization industries are hammering home a message of world transformation. At the universities, new global studies programs are established, students are fed with global transformation readers, and research projects are devoted to searches for global democracy. Yet, we continue to take for granted, and teach our students, the classical canon of political thought without raising the question whether this classical canon is of much further use in a radically changing world.

    From Plato to Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx, the march through the history of political thought is characterized by a search for one best solution: the absolute truth of...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Method of Inquiry Descartes v. Vico
    (pp. 15-28)

    How does one construct a classical canon in the history of political thought? Until the so-called Age of Enlightenment consciously began to raise the question of tradition and progress, the old masters had been studied as undisputed and timeless sources of wisdom and intellectual authority. Scholastic arguments were garnished with ubiquitous references to the great thinkers of the past. But there were few explicit attempts at improving or overcoming the positions they held.

    Radical change first came from the two great intellectual and spiritual movements commonly associated with the final transition from the Middle Ages to the early-modern world: the...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Nature of the Political Plato v. Aristotle
    (pp. 29-48)

    All histories of Western political thought begin in ancient Greece. More precisely, they begin in the Athenian city state (polis) where, over a period of little more than a hundred years, politics was invented as citizens’ active participation in public life, and political leadership came to depend on public opinion and public approval.

    At the beginning of the sixth century BCE, the lawgiver Solon ended a period of economic crisis and social conflict between the aristocracy and peasants by introducing a political constitution that effectively ended traditional aristocratic rule. Citizenship became more inclusive with the creation of four different political...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Governance Thomas v. Marsilius
    (pp. 49-72)

    Judging retrospectively from the modern perspective on individual liberalism, the Middle Ages, with their feudal system of loyalties owed to seigneurs and lords, must appear like the Dark Ages. And in a way they were in the sense that Plato’s noble lie reigned supreme. As Augustine had put it authoritatively: “Order is the disposition of equal and unequal things in such a way as to give each its proper place.”¹

    But as in the case of Plato, the idea of tranquillity in a fixed universal order was not much more than wishful thinking. Such thinking could become an imposed vision...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Class Politics Machiavelli’s Prince v. The Discourses
    (pp. 73-92)

    To some, Machiavelli is “Old Nick,” the devil and teacher of evil. To others, he is the first theorist of modernity and champion ofrealpolitik. This is an enormous gulf of opinion that the great Florentine realist has been posthumously burdened with. There are probably two main reasons why opinions differ so much and so fanatically when it comes to Machiavelli. One is that he is closer to us than, say, Plato or Thomas, and perhaps even Locke or Rousseau. His opinions and judgments get under the (thin) skin of modern civilization more quickly. The other reason is that he...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Sovereignty Hobbes v. Althusius
    (pp. 93-118)

    It should have been an exciting time of optimism and progress. Humanism and the Renaissance had opened up enormous new resources in arts and science, and in individual human ingenuity more generally. It led Columbus to discover the New World of the Americas. The Reformation added a new faith in individual conscience and responsibility. Aspiring to make a good living on earth no longer meant forfeiting a better life to come.

    Yet this age of transition, from the old scholasticism to the new science, and from Christian universalism to a diversity of states and faiths, turned out to be a...

  10. CHAPTER 7 State and Society Locke v. Montesquieu
    (pp. 119-146)

    In its search for stability and peace, political thought after the Reformation had mainly focussed on sovereignty, the organization of reliable political authority. This focus changed when the eventual consolidation of political power and authority in a new system of sovereign territorial states set free enormous societal energies.

    Trade and commerce flourished; specialized goods production marking the beginning of the age of industrialization did away with the traditional patchwork of local market economies; and a new bourgeois class of monied men began to rival the old landed aristocracies. “The wealth of the nation,” wrote Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), “that used to...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Power of the Majority Rousseau v. Tocqueville
    (pp. 147-176)

    Up to this point, not a single one among our political theorists and philosophers had ever entertained the thought that all men—leave alone all men and women—should be unqualified citizens, and that a majority of such citizens should have an unconditional right to determine the course of politics. Typically, there had been two constraints placed upon political participation by the many. One was the idea of a mixed constitution by which the powers of majority and minority, quantity and quality, poor and rich, people and nobility, would be tied into a governmental system of mutual cooperation and control,...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Human Rights Burke (and Rousseau) v. Wollstonecraft
    (pp. 177-202)

    In order to appreciate just how far Tocqueville had gone by acknowledging the greatness and beauty he saw in democratic fairness, we only need to consider how long it would take before this fairness became an undisputed normative category in political theory and practice. Already at the 1815 Congress of Vienna, after Napoleon’s final defeat, Europe’s leading conservative powers, under the leadership of the Austrian mastermind, the Prince von Metternich, had forged a Holy Alliance against progress. The Christian god was to be sovereign, not the people, and by divine right, Europe’s monarchs were to exercise a coordinated patriarchal regime...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Modernity and Beyond Nietzsche v. Marx
    (pp. 203-231)

    The nineteenth century threw Western civilization into an accelerating vortex of industrial modernization. By mid-century, exponential growth had decisively replaced what essentially had been a steady-state economy for most if not all of the preceding 2,000 years of human history.

    It was the century of the bourgeois classes defending the victory they had won in the French Revolution. A victory it had been, despite revolutionary failure and conservative restoration: The liberal achievements of political participation and influence on the basis of property and wealth could no longer be undone. That wealth now demanded support and protection from the state it...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 232-268)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-282)
  16. Index
    (pp. 283-297)