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Society: "Society" refers to a group of individuals living together in a community, sharing common norms, values, and institutions, and often governed by established rules or laws. It encompasses social interactions, relationships, and collective organization within a given geographical or cultural context. See also Community, Culture, State, Norms, Values, Institutions.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Benjamin Constant on Society - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 387
Society/Constant/Plant: Constant experienced the French Revolution from first hand. He lived to become Napoleon's constitutional adviser during the Hundred Days (having been threatened with prison by Napoleon for his critique of his exercise of power before his exile on Elba) (...) and he died during the fall of the Orléanist Monarchy in 1830. He was educated, in part, in Scotland at Edinburgh University where he studied the work of both political economists such as Adam Smith and common sense philosophers such as Dugald Stewart, an experience that was to play a major role in his account of liberty. Romantics' ideas on economics as lunacy. His ideas on liberty reflect the contrast that he draws between the liberty of the ancients and that of the moderns, the theme of a speech given in Paris in 1820. Although it was given in his last decade it does reflect in a more systematic way many of the preoccupations ofhis life and education. The emphasis on the word systematic should not mislead us, however, since Constant is not a metaphysician and his views on freedom are based upon what he sees as practical observations about the nature of ancient societies and modern commercial societies.
His argument about ancient liberty is straightforward.
City-state/republic/slavery: the size of the Greek city-state, its cultural homogeneity and the fact that work was undertaken by slaves meant that each citizen could be fully involved in the political life of the society.
Freedom: freedom was understood in terms of this participation and involvement. It also had as a cost the downgrading of the importance of private life and private taste.
Private sphere: because of the unity of the society (which had been lauded by Romantic thinkers), while sovereignty was held in common nevertheless each individual was subject to a very wide degree of authority by the state. There was no sense of a sacrosanct private sphere.
Division of labour: the division of labour had led to a much greater differentiation of function and social experience, and culture and taste are now much more varied from individual to individual.
There is therefore a demand for a private sphere within which individuals will be able to follow their own interests and indulge their own tastes free of state interference.
>Division of labour.
Jacobinism: in Constant's view the Jacobin period of the French Revolution had led to an attempt to recreate some of the ideas of the city-state as a republic of virtue in which all aspects of life were to be under political jurisdiction and in which there was to be a direct participatory democracy.
Terror: the Terror, for Constant, was a natural outgrowth in this attempt at political nostalgia. Part of the task for the constitutional lawyer and thinker was to devise ways in which this anachronistic form of politics could not prevail. At the same time, however, Constant was clear that modern forms of politics do involve a kind of crisis in representation.
Representation/problem: in so far as the representative is a delegate from a political grouping like a constituency, political negotiation in a parliament or an assembly becomes impossible because the mandate will prevent it; alternatively if the representative is to be regarded as autonomous, then it may well be that this is effective in terms of realpolitik but the representative function will have declined to vanishing point. So there is a basic problem of representative legitimacy in the modern world, and part of the solution of course lies in many areas of life not being subject to political control and interference so that the issue of representativeness covers a narrow area. Nevertheless for Constant (1988)(1) this did pose one of the major challenges of the modern world.
>Political representation.
Gaus I 388
Society: Constant also believed that a politics of liberty did have to be underpinned by a set of values. These were however neither metaphysically grounded nor heroic. What he wanted was a regime of liberty that would leave people in a commercial society free in their private lives to follow their own tastes and interests.
>Values, >Society, >Liberty, >Freedom.

1. Constant, B. (1988) Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Plant, Raymond 2004. „European Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Constant, Benjamin
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004

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