The Generative Principle of Political Constitutions: Studies on Sovereignty, Religion and Enlightenment

The Generative Principle of Political Constitutions: Studies on Sovereignty, Religion and Enlightenment

by Joseph de Maistre (Editor)


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Joseph de Maistre had no doubt that the root causes of the French Revolution were intellectual and ideological. The degeneration of its first immense hopes into the Reign of Terror was not the result of a ruthless competition for power or of prospects of war. He echoed Voltaire's boast that "books did it all." The philosophers of the Enlightenment were the architects of the new regimes; and the shadow between revolutionary idea and social reality could be traced directly to a fatal flaw in their thought.

De Maistre asserts that society is the product, not of men's conscious decision, but of their instinctive makeup. Both history and primitive societies illustrate men's gravitation toward some form of communal life. Since government is in this sense natural, it can not legitimately be denied, revoked, or even disobeyed by the people. Sovereignty is not the product of the deliberation or the will of the people; it is a divinely bestowed authority fitted not to man's wishes but to his needs.

The French Revolution to de Maistre's mind was little more than the expansion, conversion, pride, and consequent moral corruption of the philosophers. It differs in essence from all previous political revolutions, finding a parallel only in the biblical revolt against heaven. These sentiments are the passionate and awe-inspired language of one who sees the political struggles of his time on a huge and cosmic scale, judges events sub specie aeternitatis (under the aspect of eternity), and looks on revolution and counter-revolution as a battle for the soul of humanity. The force of this classic volume still resonates in present-day ideological struggles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781412842655
Publisher: Transaction Publishers
Publication date: 01/01/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 316
Sales rank: 453,488
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) was a philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat most known for his public outspokenness for restoring the hereditary monarchy of France directly after the French Revolution. He argued that this was the only form of stable government and also believed that the Catholic Church should receive state recognition. Some of his most famous writings translated into English include Memoir on the Union of Savoy and Switzerland and The Pope: Considered in His Relations with the Church, Temporal Sovereignties, Separated Churches and the Cause of Civilization.

Jack Lively (1930-1998) was professor of politics at Warwick University. His work focused on Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought, the study of democracy, and the defense of liberal values of rational political engagement. Some of his works include The Social and Political Thought of Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy, and Utilitarian Logic and Politics.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction 1

Life 1

Maistre and His Interpreters 2

Maistre and the Enlightenment 8

Human Nature 9

The Human Condition 12

The Divine Voice in History 14

The Problem of Evil 21

The Political System 24

Revolutionary and Reactionary Thought 30

Considerations on France 47

On Revolutions 47

Thoughts on the Ways of Providence in the French Revolution 50

Of the Violent Destruction of Humanity 61

Can the French Republic Last? 65

On the French Revolution Considered in Its Antireligious Character-Digression on Christianity 71

Of the Divine Influence in Political Constitutions 77

Signs of Nullity in the French Government 80

On the Old French Constitution-Digression on the king and the Declaration to the French of July 1795 85

How Will the Counter-Revolution come about if it Happens? 86

Of the Pretended Dangers of a Counter-Revolution 88

Study on Sovereignty 93

On the Origins of Sovereignty 93

The Sovereignty of the People 93

Origins of Society 94

Sovereignty in General 98

Particular Sovereignties and Nations 99

An Examination of Some Ideas of Rousseau on the Legislator 101

The Founders and the Political Constitution of Nations 102

The Weakness of Human Power 105

Continuation of the Same Subject 107

The National Soul 108

Application of the Preceding Principles to a Particular Case-Continuation 109

A Necessary Explanation 111

On the Nature of Sovereignty 112

The Nature of Sovereignty in General 112

Monarchy 113

On Aristocracy 119

Democracy 119

The Best Species of Government 126

Continuation of the Same Subject 126

Reflections on This Subject 128

The Pope 131

Of the Pope in His Relations with the Catholic Church 131

Infallibility 131

Councils 133

Analogies Derived from Temporal Power 133

Of the Pope in His Relations with Temporal Sovereignties 134

A Few Words on Sovereignty 134

Inconveniences of Sovereignty 135

Ideas of Antiquity on the Great Problem 138

Further Considerations on the Same Subject 140

Distinguishing Characteristics of the Power Exercised by the Popes 141

Justification of Papal Power 141

Of the Pope in His Relations with the Civilization and Happiness of Peoples 143

Civil Liberty of Mankind 143

Essay on the Generative Principle of Political Constitutions 147

The Saint Petersburg Dialogues 183

First Dialogue 183

Second Dialogue 195

Third Dialogue 211

Fourth Dialogue 212

Fifth Dialogue 222

Sixth Dialogue 237

Seventh Dialogue 245

Eighth Dialogue 259

Ninth Dialogue 269

Tenth Dialogue 274

Eleventh Dialogue 287

Enlightenment on Sacrifices 291

Sacrifices in General 291

Human Sacrifices 295

The Christian Theory of Sacrifices 297

Index 299

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