Contending for liberty : principle and party in Montesquieu, Hume, and Burke
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This thesis explores the political reformation of “faction” in the political thought of Montesquieu, David Hume, and Edmund Burke, three thinkers whose works span what Pierre Manent calls “an exquisite moment of liberalism.” It examines the transformation of faction from one based largely on class to one based largely on political function and argues that as the political emphasis of “party” overtook that of class, a disconnect in constitutional theory appeared between the principles formerly associated with class, such as honor, and the principles now associated with parties. This disconnect is examined by focusing on the interrelated concepts of political principle, or that which motivates and regulates men, and faction, itself divided into two types, principled and singular. This thesis further considers the role of political principle to faction in each thinker’s thought in order to demonstrate how limited domestic political conflict could sustain itself via a party system. Each thinker recognized that limited political conflict did not weaken the state but rather strengthened it, if engendered by “principled faction” cognizant of a nominal sovereign. Accordingly, it is argued that a similar understanding of “principled faction,” though focused largely on aristocratic ideas of prejudice, self-interest, and inequality, better promoted political liberty within the state and contributed to a greater acceptance of party in political thought.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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