Representative democracy and the "spirit of resistance" from Constant to Tocqueville

McDaniel, Iain (2018) Representative democracy and the "spirit of resistance" from Constant to Tocqueville. History of European Ideas, 44 (4). pp. 433-448. ISSN 0191-6599

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The role of resistance in the politics of modern representative democracies is historically contested, and remains far from clear. This article seeks to explore historical thinking on this subject through a discussion of what Benjamin Constant and Alexis de Tocqueville had to say about resistance and its relationship to “representative government” and democracy. Neither thinker is usually seen as a significant contributor to “resistance theory” as this category is conventionally understood. But, in addition to their more familiar preoccupations with securing limitations on the exercise of political authority and averting majority tyranny, both thinkers wrote extensively on the nature and meanings of resistance in “representative governments” or democratic societies. Both thinkers are examined in the context of revolutionary and Napoleonic discussions about the legitimacy of resistance or “right to resist” oppression, and against eighteenth-century discussions of the “spirit of resistance” since Montesquieu. The article notes conceptual distinctions between resistance, revolution and insurrection in the period, and addresses the broader question of the extent to which early nineteenth-century French liberals sought to “institutionalise” principles of resistance within modern constitutional frameworks.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: resistance; insurrection; revolution; liberalism; democracy; representative government; modern republicanism; Benjamin Constant; Alexis de Tocqueville
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Intellectual History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History, 1453- > D299 1789- > D351 19th century. 1801-1914/1920
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D900 Europe (General)
Depositing User: Iain McDaniel
Date Deposited: 15 May 2018 15:20
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2020 02:00

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