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. 

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?

 

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