AUP student taking a photo of the Seine during Orientation.


Was There A Modern Democratic Tradition?

University Room: Q–604 | Quai d'Orsay Learning Commons | 6, rue du Colonel Combes
Thursday, February 6, 2020 - 18:30 to 20:00

by Professor Stephen Sawyer | Sponsored by the Center for Critical Democracy Studies at AUP and the College International de Philosophie

This article offers an interpretation of a key moment in the long history of democracy. Its hypothesis may be simply stated in the following terms: Key political theorists and administrators in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century France defined democracy as a means for solving public problems by the public itself. This conception of democracy focused on inventing effective practices of government, administrative intervention and regulatory police and differed fundamentally from our contemporary understandings that privilege the vote, popular sovereignty and parliamentary representation. Moreover, this conception of modern democracy overlapped and in some cases complemented, but – more importantly for this article – remained in significant ways distinct from, other early modern political traditions, in particular liberalism and classical republicanism. What follows therefore uncovers a largely forgotten, but widespread conception of democracy in the crucial revolutionary age from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century by asking the question: Was there a modern democratic tradition?

This workshop is one of several sessions in Spring 2020 that are part of the “Genealogy and Comparative Ontology of Political Action” research seminar series. 


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