FROM THE HEBREW COMMONWEALTH TO PARTY POLITICS: ROUSSEAU’S LEGACY AND THE NATION-STATE IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY POLITICAL THOUGHT


Change log
Authors
Sonenscher, Michael 
Abstract

Among the various ways of thinking about self-determination in the nineteenth century – in the context, for example, of nations and empires, or church and state, or men and women - two sets of concepts stood out. One set began with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant and focussed on the concept of autonomy and the related idea of individual self-determination. The other set began much later in the nineteenth century and focussed on the relationship between the concept of the nation-state and an earlier array of calls for national self-determination centred, for example, on the Dutch revolt of the sixteenth century, the Catalan rebellion of the seventeenth century, or the German resistance to the Napoleonic empire in the early nineteenth century. The most immediate aim of this essay is to uncover some of the different layers of political argument buried beneath these different concepts of self-determination and, by doing so, to begin to explain how and why these initially separate sets of concepts - and the range of different subjects to which they referred - came to be connected.1 It is designed to build on, and modify, the parallel examinations of nations, nationalism and nation-states made a generation ago by Reinhart Koselleck and Istvan Hont by adding the concepts of autonomy and individual self-determination to those that they associated with the concepts of nationality and national self-determination.2 In both their examinations, the initial historical and analytical focus fell on the difference between the concepts of the people and the nation as agents collectively responsible for authorising and legitimating political authority and power. Drawing on a widely recognised distinction in early modern European legal and political thought, both Koselleck and Hont emphasised the legal and political quality of the concept of the people as an agent of authorisation and, by contrast, the cultural and ethnic attributes of the concept of a nation as a natural and non-political part of society. In this early modern idiom, empires and states could house many different nations, but sovereignty and law would still make - or be the work of - one people. Nations, in short, were natural communities, but peoples were the products of empires, states and law.

Description
Keywords
Journal Title
Modern Intellectual History
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
1479-2443
1479-2451
Volume Title
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Publisher DOI
Publisher URL