French Political Thought from Montesquieu to Tocqueville: Liberty in a Levelled Society? Cambridge University Press, 2008. By Annelien de Dijn
This study makes a major contribution to our understanding of one of the most important and enduring strands of modern political thought. Annelien de Dijn argues that Montesquieu’s aristocratic liberalism - his conviction that the preservation of freedom in a monarchy required the existence of an aristocratic ‘corps intermédiaire’ - had a continued impact on post-revolutionary France. Revisionist historians from Furet to Rosanvallon have emphasised the impact of revolutionary republicanism on post-revolutionary France, with its monist conception of politics and its focus on popular sovereignty. Dr de Dijn, however, highlights the persistence of a pluralist liberalism that was rooted in the Old Regime, and which saw democracy and equality as inherent threats to liberty. She thus provides a new context in which to read the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, who is revealed as the heir not just of Restoration liberals, but also of the Royalists and their hero, Montesquieu.
"Annelien de Dijn’s outstanding book... elegantly reconstructs a tradition of “aristocratic liberalism” that can be traced back to Montesquieu, and which influenced a range of royalist and liberal thinkers alike in France from 1814 to 1875." -- Political Theory, 2010
"[This book] is an invaluable study which has greatly contributed to deepening our knowledge of a rich liberal tradition." -- English Historical Review, 2010
"Annelien de Dijn has written a very stimulating and timely book. Everyone who has embarked on the difficult journey to the roots of European liberalism and its dilemmas will find in French Political Thought from Montesquieu to Tocqueville a very useful road map." -- Perspectives on Political Science, 2009
"French Political Thought from Montesquieu to Tocqueville is an excellent, original and erudite account of a long-forgotten chapter in modern intellectual history that will prove immensely valuable to scholars and students alike." -- French History, 2008
The essays collected here aim to set up a dialogue between the 'historical' and the 'contemporary' Tocqueville. In what ways does a contextualization of Tocqueville throw new light on his relevance as a political thinker today? How can a focus on his embeddedness in the political culture of the nineteenth century contribute to our understanding of his political thought? Or, conversely, how has the usage of Tocqueville's writings in day-to-day political debate influenced the reception of his work both in the past and today?
"The essays in this volume exemplify the range of Tocqueville scholarship today, while privileging themes little explored within it —empire, slavery and religion." -- French History, 2009
"Reading Tocqueville proves that there are still many Tocquevilles speaking different languages and addressing various intellectual and political constituencies." -- H-France, 2009