Renaissance & Reformation
People must have righteous principals in the first, and then they will not fail to perform virtuous actions. ~ Martin Luther
The Renaissance – from the 14th into the 17th century – is considered the bridge between the Middle Ages and modern times. It began as an Italian cultural movement that spread to the rest of Europe.
The Renaissance sparked a renewed interested in the writings and values of classical antiquity, giving rise to the intellectual movement termed humanism. Secular men of letters initiated humanism, in contrast to the scholar-clerics who had dominated medieval intellectual culture with scholasticism: a method of conceptual analysis to defend Christian dogma.
Other events shaped the Renaissance: the discovery of new continents, the decline of feudalism, burgeoning trade, and potent technological innovations, including gunpowder, the mariner’s compass, and printing.
Though its inspiration was classicism, the intellectual momentum of the Renaissance ended up questioning traditional thought. This rubbed off on religious observers.
Politics in the Catholic Church created a schism in the late 14th century. Several men simultaneously claimed to be the pope after Pope Gregory XI died in 1378.
The threat of fragmentation had hung over the Catholic Church since the 5th century, with the rivalry between Rome and Constantinople. That resolved in ~1054, with the Eastern Orthodox Church splitting from the Roman Catholic Church. The Orthodoxy proceeded without a pope; instead, setting up ecumenical councils to interpret the scriptures, with a patriarch as first among equals.
During the Papal Schism (1378–1417) at least 2 men claimed to be pope: one at Avignon, one in Rome, with at times a 3rd papal pretender. The Schism had a lasting effect in eroding people’s faith in the papacy. Coupled with perceived corruption in the Roman Curia and the sale of indulgences (spiritual privileges), an esurient and religiously bankrupt practice, the Catholic Church was weakened.
As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul into heaven springs. ~ German Catholic friar Johann Tetzel (1465–1519), Grand Commissioner for the sale of indulgences in Germany
Ineffectual attempts to reform the Catholic Church had been made by numerous men. Then one man nailed it.
On 31 October 1517 (the eve of All Saints’ Day), German friar and priest Martin Luther reputedly posted 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg Saxony. In his assault on the sale of indulgences, Luther not only attacked the ostensible corruption within the church, he also took aim at the theological root of the problem: the perversion of doctrine regarding grace and redemption (divine favor during life and salvation after it).
Luther had not intended to break with the Catholic Church, but confrontation was the papacy was not long in coming. In 1521 Luther was excommunicated, and, for good measure, declared an outlaw by the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V. What began as an internal reform movement ratcheted into a fracture of western Christendom.
I feel much freer now that I am certain the pope is the Antichrist. ~ Martin Luther
The Reformation movement in Germany quickly spread to other countries. Other reform impulses arose independently of Luther.
It was if a dam suppressing dissent had suddenly burst. The flood was furthered by the obstinacy of the Catholic Church, which turned the reform movement into a religious revolution that cascaded into politics.
Oppressed German peasants translated Lutheran ideals of Christian equality into practical terms. Their 1524–1525 rebellion was the only genuinely popular revolt in German history and would have altered the flow of German history had it succeeded in any measure.
Instead, the German Peasants’ War turned into a series of massacres. Luther himself instigated the princes to take the sternest measures against the rebel “swine” and “mad dogs.” Hence, Lutheranism evolved into a faithful ally of political absolutism. Luther typically considered the ruling princes “the greatest fools or scoundrels on Earth.” Yet he insisted on submission as a duty of subjects, as the world is wicked, and does not deserve virtuous rulers.
The lasting effect on the German people was to bolster a fatalism of nourishing ideals of freedom while obeying authority without question in practical matters.
Luther’s strong respect for state power was part and parcel with a passionate feeling of German nationalism, and even racialism. Thus, Luther became the spiritual ancestor of Prussian statism and German Nazism; the only Protestant leader to spawn such progeny.
In the peace that followed the Peasant’s War, Germany lost a vital opportunity to learn toleration.
The problem of religious division in the German states was settled by the princes determining the religion of the region. Dissidents were free to emigrate. This was a leniency from the medieval method of burning heretics at the stake.
The Protestant Reformation engendered religious factionalism. As more churches came into existence, mutual tolerance grew. In England, Holland, and North America, toleration of religious minorities preceded that of political opposition.
As long as Protestantism was largely Lutheran, it made little headway in France, even though there was a vigorous tradition of anticlericalism there since the Middle Ages.
Man is under 2 kinds of government: one spiritual, by which the conscience is formed to piety and the service of God; the other political, by which a man is instructed in the duties of humanity and civility, which are to be observed in an intercourse with mankind. ~ John Calvin
While studying law at college, John Calvin became acquainted with Renaissance humanism, in the form of a radical student movement which aimed to reform the church and society on an intertwined model of classical and Christian antiquity. It left an indelible mark and changed the course of Calvin’s life.
Calvin’s participation in the Parisian reform movement ended abruptly as the government started a crackdown. In 1534, Calvin fled France to Switzerland.
In 1536, Calvin wrote the Institutes of Christian Religion, his principle work and the foundation of Calvinist doctrine. His evangelizing included political theory, the aim of which was to safeguard the freedoms and rights of ordinary people.
Calvin came to political power, governing Geneva 1536–1538 and 1541–1564. His rule was one of ruthless terror.
Though Calvin’s theological doctrines differed little from those of Luther, his historical impact did. Calvinism spread to France, Holland, Scotland, and the English colonies in North America.
Unlike Luther, Calvin permitted resistance to tyrannical rulers, albeit only though legal channels. Calvin’s stress remained on obedience, not resistance. Yet religious persecution in Holland and France drove Calvinists there into revolt. In France, the monarchy allied itself with the papacy against the Hapsburgs.
The strong centralizing tendencies of the nascent states were opposed by Calvinist demands for local autonomy. A considerable proportion of the French aristocracy sympathized with the Calvinist cause.
The religiously-inspired political conflict led to the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598), which included the Massacre of St. Bartholomew on 24–25 August 1572, in which 30,000 Huguenots (French Protestants) were killed.
Pope Gregory XIII celebrated the slaughter with a public procession and solemn mass of thanksgiving, as well as having a commemorative medal struck. The pope praised the French king, Charles IX, for suppressing Protestantism, and expressed the hope that the enterprise so auspiciously started on St. Bartholomew’s Day would be carried on to the end.
In the decade following the massacre, the Huguenots produced a mass of tracts that were the most provocative political propaganda during the Reformation. The best known was A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants (Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos) (1579), published anonymously for obvious reasons.
In the establishing of the king there are 2 covenants contracted: the 1st between God, the king, and the people; the 2nd between the king and the people. ~ A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants
Vindiciae dealt with the bases of proper political power, and justifiable resistance to abuses of power. Vindiciae posits the answers in contractual terms.
The 1st covenant is between God and the people, including the king, so “that the people might be the people of God.” The 2nd contract is between a king and the people: a promise of faithful obedience given a just rule.
Both contracts in Vindiciae are derived from the Old Testament. The Calvinists, like the Puritans a century later, leaned heavily on the Old Testament for the concept of covenant as the foundation for authority.
Another key idea in Vindiciae is of trusteeship. A sovereign supposedly acts on behalf of his subjects, to whom he is ultimately accountable.
A subtext of trusteeship emphasizes 3rd-party adjudication: that governments should decide civil disputes. This anticipates one of the chief ideas of Locke.
Vindiciae conceives of a king as a judge rather than a legislator. It also assumes a superiority of law over a monarch. The king is only an organ of the law.
Vindiciae deals with the 2 types of tyranny: either gaining rule via violence, or one lawfully vested who violates his trust by practicing tyranny. A usurper who rules justly is preferable to a legitimate monarch who does not.
Tyranny is to be resisted. A tyrant, especially an illegitimate unjust ruler, should be deposed and killed. But not by the people per se. Early Calvinists were aristocratic. Vindiciae makes clear that its liberalism does not extend to sanctioning democracy.
Vindiciae had a powerful impact, especially on Dutch and English thought. What the Huguenots wanted for France came to fruition in England with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when Catholicism was politically and socially routed from its shores.
Vindiciae stressed moral conscience as the ultimate source of authority. It was a far cry from “might makes right,” which was, and remained, the common creed of polity regardless of its form – aristocratic or democratic.
Sovereignty is the absolute and perpetual power of the state. ~ Jean Bodin
French jurist and political philosopher Jean Bodin (1530–1596) is widely credited with solidifying the concept of sovereignty in political thought.
Machiavelli had come close to the ideas of statehood. He was first to coin the term state (lo stato).
Machiavelli was primarily interested in power and those who struggled for it. His use of the term state was permeated with governance: the state as ruler and associated machinery for exercising power. This was a personal view, not an institutional one.
A public legal group – Politiques – sought to stem the tide of religious fanaticism that fueled the French religious war. Bodin became its best-known theorist.
Bodin defined sovereignty as “the absolute and perpetual power of the state.” He distinguished the government, which exercised sovereign power for a limited time, from the state, which had perpetual sovereignty.
Bodin more clearly saw than anyone before him that the essence of sovereignty lay in the making of laws.
In the Middle Ages, the law was cumulatively accreted by judges (common law), not crafted by legislators. It was thought a slow synthesis of the will of God, the law of Nature, and the immemorial custom of the land.
Bodin made a revolutionary break in spurning the feudal system of diffuse authority to espouse centralized sovereignty. Boden perceived the limits of sovereignty as checked by divine and natural law.
Bodin preferred monarchy to aristocracy or democracy because the indivisibility of authority seemed best safeguarded by 1 man. In several aspects, Bodin followed the philosophic logic laid out in Vindiciae.
Bodin accepted religious diversity on philosophic grounds (“the more the will of men is forced, the more it becomes obstinate”), and opposed slavery as unjust.
Bodin’s bourgeois perspective was reflected in his views on property and war. He held that taxation without the consent of the “estates” (i.e., property-owning men) was unjustifiable.
Although recognizing that “excessive wealth of the few and extreme poverty of the many” was a formula for revolution, conservative Bodin strongly opposed equality, as the foundation of the state is good faith, which equalization would subvert by sundering traditions.
Bodin considered war destructive of human associations, both material and spiritual. War was only justified to repel aggression.
Bodin’s vision of a strong state, monarchial but not tyrannical, became the model for the French nation-state, in which the interests of the monarchy were allied with of the ascendant merchant and middle classes against church and aristocracy. This alliance between king and bourgeoisie was to last over 2 hundred years, until the French Revolution raised the fundamental issues of where sovereignty should reside, and how much economic inequity should be tolerated.
Among all the causes of sedition and basic changes of the state, none is more important than excessive wealth of the few and extreme poverty of the many. ~ Jean Bodin
I put for the general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death. ~ Thomas Hobbes
English sociologist and philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) is best known for his political theories. His book Leviathan (1651) set the cornerstone of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory: the rightful authority of the state over individuals.
Fear and I were born twins. ~ Thomas Hobbes
Hobbes paramount concern for order in society stemmed from his fear of violent death. Fear is a typical motivator for a conservative bent.
Like Machiavelli, Hobbes lived in a time of scarcity and greed. Characterizing men as hostile and competitive was a no-brainer. Unlike Aristotle, Hobbes insisted that men were not naturally gregarious: that politics was a product of cultural convention.
The political philosophy espoused in Leviathan reflected the civil strife in England. Hobbes decamped to Paris when the English Civil War broke out in 1642.
The war raged over the power of King Charles I versus an ascendant Parliament. Hobbes wrote Leviathan in Paris to support his royalist views.
The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them. ~ Thomas Hobbes
Hobbes’ was utterly convinced that absolute monarchy was the best form of government. This owed to Hobbes’ opinion of mankind. Hobbes considered the human condition absent any political order as destined to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” His infamous conclusion was homo homini lupus: “man is a wolf to man.”
Humans banded together only to protect themselves from the aggression of others. Civilization was a matter of self-defense.
Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravitation. ~ Thomas Hobbes
Hobbes saw self-interest and fear as the 2 primary drivers of human behavior. His advocacy of despotism was a means to socially manage these motivations. To Hobbes, only absolute power could ensure societal order.
In his time, Hobbes views appeared to be not far off the mark, especially considering the reaction to his work.
Leviathan came to be viewed as the work of an atheist. The plague and the great fire of London in 1665–1666 were believed by many to be God’s vengeance for harboring Hobbes. A motion was made in Parliament in 1666 to burn Hobbes at the stake as a heretic. King Charles II intervened to spare Hobbes, who went on to live to the ripe old age of 91.
It is not wisdom but Authority that makes a law. ~ Thomas Hobbes
The rule and standard for all law-making is the public good. ~ John Locke
In anticipating the direction in which sociopolitical thought was headed, English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) was a widely influential. His fame gave him credit to nascent trends which he helped accelerate.
The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual movement in the 17th–18th centuries to reform society via rationality, challenging concepts rooted in tradition and faith. Ironically, Enlightenment thought placed indomitable faith in the idea of progress. Its proponents promoted empirical science, skepticism, and intellectual exchange, in opposition to superstition, intolerance, and abuses of power by the church and state. Locke was one of the powerhouses in this so-called Age of Reason.
Government has no other end but the preservation of property. The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. ~ John Locke
Classical liberalism as a political creed was hatched by Locke. Though there had been many socialists before Marx, there were no libertarians before Locke.
The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on Earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of Nature for his rule. ~ John Locke
Locke asserted that people had a right to their own paths, rather than imposition by authority. Locke challenged the divine right of kings, and proposed self-governance: for and by the people.
Every man has an immortal soul that is capable of eternal happiness or misery. Its happiness depends on his believing and doing the things that he needs to believe and do if he is to obtain God’s favour – the things that are prescribed by God for that purpose. ~ John Locke
Locke’s logic was based upon his belief in a moral relationship between individual and God. Since life was a gift from God, all were equal before God.
God having made man such a creature, that in his own judgment, it was not good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligations of necessity, convenience, and inclination to drive him into society, as well as fitted him with understanding and language to continue and enjoy it. ~ John Locke
Hence, the natural condition of man was of freedom. Locke’s insistence that there was a higher, natural law over the law of the state became an integral part of modern democratic theology.
Locke may have had his head in the clouds, but his political feet were on solid ground. His take on “why men enter into society” was so mundane as to hit conservative bedrock.
The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property. Where there is no property there is no injustice. ~ John Locke
Locke never considered the rather obvious implication of that last statement: “where there is no property there is no injustice” – that private property is the root of injustice, and thereby the material wellspring of evil.
Locke’s political philosophy enthralled 19th century utilitarians. It echoed in the Declaration of Independence by the American colonies: “with certain inalienable rights.”
There is irony in this. Locke opposed the English colonies in the New World, as it risked depleting England of good people. He also presciently feared that the colonies would become independent of the mother country and compete with it.
To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality. ~ John Locke
Like many who followed in his philosophic footsteps, Locke was so optimistically idealistic as to sink into the swamp of naïveté. His stance that the state of Nature was of perfect freedom and equality ignored the altricial dependence in which we all exist from birth into adulthood, as well as disregarding the interdependence extant in society in his day.
Idea is the object of thinking. ~ John Locke
Locke’s mental world of abstractions provided self-comforting thoughts that had no connection to the subjection and hardscrabble existence that most people lived in, which invariably goes beyond impacting the quality of society to actually defining it. Like his characterization of politics, Locke’s accounting of economics was utterly fictional.
All wealth is the product of labor. ~ John Locke
Useless laws weaken the necessary laws. ~ Montesquieu
French lawyer and political philosopher Montesquieu (1689–1755) is best remembered for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, which became a staple in many constitutions throughout the world.
There is as yet no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from legislative power and the executrix. ~ Montesquieu
Separation of powers is a model for governance that divides the functions of the state into branches. The typical division is tripartite: an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary, which Montesquieu promoted. Aristotle first mentioned the idea in his Politics.
People have the government they deserve. ~ Montesquieu
Montesquieu categorized government into 3 main forms: monarchy, which depends upon honor; republic (democracy), which has faith in the virtue of voters; and despotism, which relies upon fear for subjugation.
Luxury ruins republics; poverty, monarchies. ~ Montesquieu
Nothing is more surprising than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few. ~ David Hume
Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) was a staunch subjectivist, his philosophy founded upon skepticism: not bothering to believe beyond what his senses informed (of which he was also skeptical). The only thing that saved him from solipsism was the simple-mindedness of his skepticism.
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. ~ David Hume
Hume’s primary political significance stems from being a predecessor of the utilitarianism developed by Jeremy Bentham a half century hence. Bentham gratefully acknowledged Hume as his inspirational source.
Public utility is the sole origin of justice. The rules of equity or justice depend entirely on the particular state and condition in which men are placed. By rendering justice totally useless, you thereby totally destroy its essence, and suspend its obligation upon mankind. ~ David Hume
Like Hobbes, Hume pointed out that justice is not natural, only the product of human contrivance. There is no law beyond the extent of human society, which invariably leads to certain rules, the first of which is the sanctity of private property (“the ideas of property become necessary in all civil society”).
Consent could not be the basis of a regular administration. ~ David Hume
Hume demolished the myth of social contract. Government is founded by coercion, not consent.
The love of dominion is so strong in the breast of man. When an artful and bold man is placed at the head of an army or faction, it is often easy for him, by employing, sometimes violence, sometimes false pretenses, to establish his dominion over a people a hundred times more numerous than his partisans. By such arts as these, many governments have been established; and this is all the original contract which they have to boast of. The original establishment (of government) was formed by violence, and submitted to from necessity.
The face of the Earth is continually changing, by the increase of small kingdoms into great empires, by the dissolution of great empires into smaller kingdoms, by the planting of colonies, by the migration of tribes. Is there anything discoverable in all these events, but force and violence? Where is the mutual agreement or voluntary association so much talked of? ~ David Hume
Once government is founded, people come to accept it: “habit soon consolidates what other principles of human nature had imperfectly founded.”
The long continuance of that state (being ruled over), an incident common among savage tribes, inured the people to submission. Obedience or subjection becomes so familiar, that most men never make any inquiry about its origin or cause, more than about the principle of gravity, resistance, or the most universal laws of nature. ~ David Hume
Though he favored representative government, Hume questioned the ability of men to govern themselves. Men were easily “seduced” from their greater interest “by the allurement of the present, often very frivolous temptations. This great weakness is incurable in human nature.”
All men are sensible of the necessity of justice to maintain peace and order; and all men are sensible of the necessity of peace and order for the maintenance of society. Yet, notwithstanding this strong and obvious necessity, such is the frailty or perverseness of our nature! It is impossible to keep men, faithfully and unerringly, in the paths of justice. ~ David Hume
Thus, the need for government, which, for Hume, has a sole purpose.
We are to look upon all the vast apparatus of our government as having ultimately no other object or purpose but the distribution of justice. ~ David Hume
As an extension of personal lust for power, Hume understood the temptation of governments toward totalitarianism.
Liberty is the perfection of civil society; but still authority must be acknowledged essential to its very existence. In all governments, there is a perpetual intestine struggle, open or secret, between authority and liberty; and neither of them can ever absolutely prevail in the contest. ~ David Hume
Civilization is a hopeless race to discover remedies for the evils it produces. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Genevan philosopher and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) was a keen moralist, and a fierce critic of 18th-century French society. His political philosophy influenced the 1789 French Revolution, which was the political culmination of the Age of Enlightenment.
Rousseau had an idealized imagining of human social evolution: from solitude to increasing interdependence. Rousseau’s predominant interest was to find a way to preserve freedom in the interdependent complex that constituted modern society.
The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “this is mine,” and found people naïve enough to believe him; that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: “beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The dimensions of this concern were both material and psychological; the latter of greater importance. Rousseau saw that people derived their sense of self from others, which he considered corrosive of freedom and individual authenticity.
Our souls have been corrupted in proportion to the advancement of our sciences and our arts toward perfection. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Fame came to Rousseau by his winning an essay competition in 1750. His Discourse on the Science and the Arts scandalized Enlightenment contemporaries with the proposition that progress was counter-productive to human well-being. His follow-on essay, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men, served a 2nd helping.
The extreme inequality of our ways of life, the excess of idleness among some and the excess of toil among others, the ease of stimulating and gratifying our appetites and our senses, the overelaborate foods of the rich, which inflame and overwhelm them with indigestion, the bad food of the poor, which they often go without altogether, so that they over-eat greedily when they have the opportunity; those late nights, excesses of all kinds, immoderate transports of every passion, fatigue, exhaustion of mind, the innumerable sorrows and anxieties that people in all classes suffer, and by which the human soul is constantly tormented: these are the fatal proofs that most of our ills are of our own making, and that we might have avoided nearly all of them if only we had adhered to the simple, unchanging and solitary way of life that nature ordained for us. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau’s arguments extended those of Machiavelli and Montesquieu about the growth of affluence and luxury leading to moral decline and loss of liberty.
Rousseau’s Stoic endorsement of simplicity, and severe criticism of increasing dependence on commodities, angered Age of Reason thinkers, whose trust in progress was bedrock to their beliefs. Voltaire declared that Rousseau wanted people to “walk on all fours” like animals and act like savages.
The ideal of the noble savage can be traced back to Tacitus (56–117), a Roman senator and historian, in reference to the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire. The phrase first appeared in English in the 1672 play by John Dryden: Conquest of Granada.
I am as free as Nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began,
When wild in woods the noble savage ran.
In many respects, Rousseau’s sentiments bore a striking resemblance to the later indictment of Western civilization by Indian social leader Mahatma Gandhi.
What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Plato was a powerful influence on Rousseau in 2 respects. First was the conviction that political subjection is essentially ethical, and only a matter of power and law secondarily. More importantly, Rousseau agreed with Plato that the community itself is the chief moralizing agency in polity, and so represents a society’s moral value. Like Plato, Rousseau believed in the primacy of politics.
The social pact, far from destroying natural equality, substitutes, on the contrary, a moral and lawful equality for whatever physical inequality that nature may have imposed on mankind; so that however unequal in strength and intelligence, men become equal by covenant and by right. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau perceived that civil society evolved for the protection of the property of a relative few. The institutionalization of inequitable property rights put an end to self-sufficiency and brought misery to the majority.
From the moment it appeared advantageous to any one man to have enough provisions for two, equality too disappeared, property was introduced, for work became indispensable, and vast forests became smiling fields, which man had to water with the sweat of his brow, and where slavery and misery were soon seem to germinate and grow up with crops. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Whereas Hobbes saw man evolving from a state of social enmity to civility through social contract over private property, Rousseau envisioned the opposite: that natural gregariousness gave way to social dissension through property, which created inequality and mutual dependence.
The rich required the services of the poor, while the poor survived upon the leavings of the rich. As the discrepancy and social distinctions sharpened, the poor coveted the property of the rich, the rich feared loss, which lead to the social conflict which Hobbes viewed as the natural, not evolved, state.
Despite his cogent analysis, Rousseau was no socialist. He regarded property as a most sacred citizen right, though with no definite idea about its place in communal affairs.
Like Plato, Rousseau’s indictment of property was on moral grounds. His ideal was unrealistically idyllic: an economic system based upon small farmers tilling their own tracts of land.
No man has any natural authority over his fellow men. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
In libertarian spirit, Rousseau considered consent as the basis for a just state but emphasized the importance of community along with the need to ensure individual freedom. This too was Platonic idealism.
The State, in relation to its members, is master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the State, is the basis of all rights. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau considered the making of just laws a problem beyond human ken.
In order to discover the rules of society best suited to nations, a superior intelligence beholding all the passions of men without experiencing any of them would be needed. This intelligence would have to be wholly unrelated to our nature, while knowing it through and through. It would take gods to give men laws. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau thought a participatory democracy desirable, as it virtuously secured freedom, self-rule, and equality.
What, then, is the government? An intermediary body established between the subjects and the sovereign for their mutual communication, a body charged with the execution of the laws and the maintenance of freedom, both civil and political. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau firmly believed that freedom only occurred when people governed themselves and participated in the law-making process. Contrastingly, Rousseau considered parliamentary democracy a sham.
The English people believes itself to be free. It is gravely mistaken. It is only free during the election of Members of Parliament. As soon as the Members are elected, the people are enslaved. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Eschewing anarchy, Rousseau grappled with devising a polity that would protect individual liberty while subscribing to social decency. He rejected representative institutions, which he viewed as creating factionalized competition.
Rousseau despised competitiveness in both economics and politics, as competition killed cooperation and affiliative feeling for one’s fellows. He rejected Locke’s liberal formula of government as the vehicle of private property protection, seeing it as the means to entrench inequality under the pretense of legal equity.
Rousseau’s conceptual conniptions came in trying to ensure personal freedom while ensuring equity and fostering moral virtue and community spirit. He admitted defeat.
Were there a people of gods, their government would be democratic. So perfect a government is not for men. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau