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Benjamin Constant and the liberalism of order: Has the French Revolution already finished?

Grant number: 17/03986-5
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): January 08, 2018
Effective date (End): January 07, 2019
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Political Science - Political Theory
Principal researcher:Eunice Ostrensky
Grantee:Felipe Freller
Supervisor abroad: Frederic Brahami
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), France  
Associated to the scholarship:15/21607-6 - The problem of arbitrariness in Benjamin Constant, BP.DR

Abstract

This project is part of a doctoral research on the problem of arbitrariness in Benjamin Constant's (1767-1830) work. This research stage focuses on the dialogue between Constant and a current of political thought that we propose to call "liberalism of order". This expression is an adaptation of the "liberal authoritarianism" employed by Howard Brown, and especially by Andrew Jainchill, in order to refer to the political culture that guided the attempt to end the French Revolution by means of the construction of the Bonapartist system. According to Jainchill, the theoretical basis of liberal authoritarianism can be found in the writings of Pierre-Louis Roederer and Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès. This project share with Jainchill the vision according to which there is in these authors a singular and important trend of political thought. However, it proposes to call it "liberalism of order" instead of "liberal authoritarianism". The reason is to highlight that the starting point of these authors, in the Thermidorian period, was not exactly an authoritarian system already preconceived, but rather a defense of order and a new conception of the Executive Power, which, in their vision, did not implicate necessarily the rising of an authoritarian government. This research considers Jacques Necker as one of the main inspirers of liberalism of order, and Roederer and Adrien de Lezay-Marnésia as its main propagandists, inside the republican camp, since the 9 Thermidor. This research stage realized in France intends to investigate the foundations of the dispute between these authors and Constant under the Directory and the beginning of the Consulate. The most visible face of this dispute is the controversy between Constant and Lezay, first on the dependency or independency of the republican government from national majority, then on the historical evaluation of Terror. The research hypothesis is that these two divergences have their origin in different interpretations of the French Revolution, which result in different responses to the question whether it had already finished or not. This divergence results, on the other hand, in different ways of dealing with the problem of arbitrariness - the main theme of the doctoral research.

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