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   Course Title    Formation of Modern Politics: Political Thought and Political Systems in Late Eighteenth-century and Nineteenth-century Europe
Lecturer    Halina Beresneviciute-Nosálová
Institution    Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University
Country    Lithuania

The aim of this interdisciplinary course is to confront the historical erudition and the modern scholarly sociological interpretation of the political life of the period – on the one hand with the most important texts of the late eighteenth-century, and with those of nineteenth-century political thinkers on the other.

The goals:

1) to trace the main innovations in the European political systems and practice as well as the important conceptual changes, which accompanied them;

2) to trace the differences and interactions of the East-Central and Western political thought;

3) to introduce the methods of contextual analysis of the political ideas. The major innovations in political thought will be analysed in the context of the contemporary political languages and institutional change.

The required student qualification: The forth year BA programme students.

Academic Hours: 42

Methodology: The first part of the course provides introductory lectures on the basic conceptual and institutional changes in political life and discusses some of the exemplary texts that examine the contextual analysis of the political innovations.

The second part of the course consists of seminars in which the students should produce and present an essay, in which they analyse the text of one of the chosen nineteenth-century thinkers in the context of the themes discussed in the classes.

Course schedule:

Part I

1. The Ancient Regime and the Revolution : the history of the concepts and the historiography approaches;

The lecture describes the history of the ‘Ancient Regime’ and the ‘Revolution’ focussing on the variety of the answers to the following questions in the eighteenth and nineteenth century political writings: What was labelled as the ‘Ancient Regime’? How modern was the ‘Ancient Regime’? When did the ‘Ancient Regime’ end? What was the novelty of the French ‘Revolution’? The second part of the lecture presents the revisionist approaches of the Marxist and Tocquevillean interpretations of the Revolution and focuses on the shift from the causes-outcome interpretations to the analysis of the revolutionary language and rhetoric.

The readings:

Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1984. P. 1-51;

2. From Absolutism to the modern centralised state. The sources of authority and the limits of the central government.

The lecture presents the overview of the intellectual history of the ‘state’/’Estates’ in Early Modern times which is followed by the gradual dissolution of the affinities of the ‘Statesman’ with ‘Land possession’ and ‘social status’ in the political languages and the institutions of Modern times. The Early modern ideas about ‘forma mixta’ as the best form of government and Montesquieu’s division of governmental powers were changed by the idea of representative government and by the more complex ‘checks and balances’ systems, which included ‘public opinion’ and ‘civic society’. The source of the authority of the state as well as civic identity were also changed while the idea of the territorial sovereignty was being changed by national sovereignty first in the French and later in all European political languages. The latter change might legitimate the installation of the Republican as well as the populist authoritarian and conservative nationalist regimes as might be demonstrated by the historical experiences of France and Prussia.

The readings:

Rodney Bruce Hall National Collective Identity. Social Constructs and International Systems. Columbia University Press, New York, 1999. P. 133-213.

3. Political economy and the economic policy of the European governments.

The lecture presents the ideas about the limits of government elaborated by the writers of the Scotch Enlightenment and the political economists in the nineteenth century. The struggle against the British Corn Laws and the victory against the mercantilist policy made political economy with its pretensions of the rigid science the popular political language which legitimised the Laissez faire politics and obstructed the extension of governmental control at least for a half a century. The conservative nationalist political languages as well as the economic experiences of the 1870’s led back to the mercantilist policies, while the conservative and socialist deliberations, each in their own ways, legitimated the practices of the social patronage of the welfare state.

The readings:

Theodore S. Hamerow The functions of government / The Birth of a New Europe. State and Society in the Nineteenth Century. The University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill and London, 1983

4. The revolutionary experience, social values and ideologies.

The political circumstances of the French Enlightenment encouraged defining ‘the best form of government’ as the truth accessed by reason rather than the wisdom acquired by political practice. The French Revolution gave an opportunity to experiment with various kinds of ‘ideology’, which occurred as a concept about this time. The lecture presents the origins of democratic, socialist, liberal and conservative ideologies, their affinities to various social values and the basic concepts in their political languages. The lecture particularly concentrates on the intellectual origins of Liberalism form the revolutionary experience as developed in the political thought of Benjamin Constant and his way of overcoming the political language of the Ancient and akin to Rousseau’s republicanism.

The readings:

Stephen Holmes Freedom in Context / Benjamin Constant and the Making of Modern Liberalism. Yale University Press. New Haven and London, 1984;

5. The beginnings of party politics;

Constant’s attack against the ancient Republicanism left untouched the generally negative treatment of ‘party’ politics, based on this tradition. Nor did the French revolutionary experience bring innovation in this respect, even though the ideological divisions among revolutionaries and the Jacobin clubs introduced mass party politics in practice. The formation of the modern idea of the ‘party’ might be rather traced in eighteenth and nineteenth century British political life. Edmund Burke was first to argue the necessity of the ‘party’, as a loyal association based on some political principle with the aim to oppose more effectively the politics of government. Another innovation was brought about by J. S. Mill and Philosophical Radicals with their aim to transform the British party politics from the rivalry of the two aristocratic parties, based on client relations, to the opposition of the parties associated according to the democratic and aristocratic philosophical principles.

The readings:

Terence Ball Party / Political Innovation and Conceptual Change. Ed. by Terence Ball, James Farr, Russel L. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, 1989;

Joseph Hamburger Philosophic radical Doctrine / Intellectuals in politics. John Stuart Mill and the Philosophic Radicals. Yale University press: New Haven and London, 1965.

6. Towards universal suffrage and mass politics;

The lecture concentrates on the conceptual change of the idea of political ‘representation’. It analyses how the political writings argued through the ideological obstacles for universal male suffrage. It inquires into how the dilemmas of the mandate/independence of the deputies and the selfish/common interests of the electorate were solved. The affinity of the idea of universal suffrage and the ideal of national unity is also discussed. The second part of the lecture examines the ways, in which the political experience, which was gained by the political practice of universal suffrage, (e.g. the failure of liberal parties) influenced the political thought.

The readings:

Hanna Fenichel Pitkin Representation / Political Innovation and Conceptual Change. Ed. By Terence Ball, James Farr, Russel L. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, 1989;

Pierre Rosanvallon The Republic of Universal Suffrage / The Invention of Modern Republic. Ed. Biancamaria Fontana. Cambridge University Press, 1998;

Norman Stone The End of "Moral Order" / Europe Transformed 1878-1919. Blackwell Publishers, 1999.

7. The Public and the Private;

The lecture concentrates on the ambiguous changes of the ideas about the ‘public’ and ‘private’ spheres in the nineteenth century political culture as well as on the variations of their significance within various ideological orientations. ‘The public opinion’, entrusted by the legitimate decision-making power by Rousseau and established as the important means of political control by democrats, faced mistrust of the liberal thinkers as a potential collective tyranny. The extension of the public sphere in nineteenth-century social life was also accompanied by its discrediting as a plane and ‘inhumane’ sphere. The class should discuss the book of Richard Sennet, which describes the latter changes in the public sphere, which was the traditional scene of action of the classical homo politicus.

The readings:

Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man. London, Boston, 1993. P. 123-256.

Part II

1. Imanuel Kant and his Political treatises;


  • ‘Republic’ in Kant‘s political philosophy;
  • ‘The world citizens’, ‘the state’ and ‘liberty’ in Kant‘s political philosophy;
  • ‘The political virtue’ in Kant‘s political philosophy.

2. Edmund Burke and his Reflections on Revolution in France; Adam Jerzy Czartoryski and his Essay on Diplomacy.


  • ‘Revolution’ in Burke’s Reflections on Revolution in France;
  • Burke’s concept of ‘Tradition’ and the British tradition of Common law;
  • ‘The morality of politics’ in Czartoryski’s political philosophy.

3. Alexis de Tocqueville and his Democracy in America; József Eötvös and his The Dominant Ideas of the Nineteenth Century and Their Impact on the State;


  • ‘Aristocracy’ and ‘democracy’ in Tocqueville‘s work;
  • ‘Public opinion’ in Tocqueville‘s work;
  • ‘State centralisation in Tocqueville‘s work;
  • ‘The state’ in József Eötvös’s book.

4. John Stuart Mill and his on Freedom. Joachim Lelewel and his Prawosc narodu polskiego;


  • ‘The individual freedom’ in Mill‘s essay;
  • ‘Public opinion’ in Mill‘s essay;
  • ‘Society’ in Mill‘s essay;
  • The ‘republican principles’ in Lelewel‘s essay.

5. Hegel and his Philosophy of Law


  • ‘Civil society’ in Hegel‘s Philosophy of Law;
  • ‘Freedom’ in Hegel‘s Philosophy of Law;
  • ‘The state’ in Hegel‘s Philosophy of Law;

6. Karl Marx and his early manuscripts


  • ‘labour’ in Marx‘s early manuscripts;
  • ‘The state’ in Marx‘s early manuscripts;
  • ‘Capitalism’ and ‘Communism’ in Marx‘s early manuscripts.

7. Friedrich Nietzsche and his Genealogy of Morals.


  • Individualism’ and ‘liberty’ in Nietzshe‘s political philosophy;
  • ‘Aristocracy’ in Nietzshe‘s political philosophy.


Supplementary literature:

François Furet, Interpreting the French revolution. Cambridge, 1981;

The Invention of Modern Republic. Ed. Biancamaria Fontana. Cambridge University Press, 1998

Paul Johnson, The Birth of the Modern-World Society 1815-1830. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1991;

Alan S. Kahan, Aristocratic Liberalism. Oxford university Press, New York, Oxford, 1992;

Political Innovation and Conceptual Change. Ed. by Terence Ball, James Farr, Russel L. Hanson. Cambridge University Press, 1989;

Jürgen Habermas Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit. Zur einer Kategorie de öffentlichen Gesellschaft. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1990;

J.L. Talmon, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy. London, 1952;

Arno Mayer World View: Social Darwinism, Nietzshe, War. / The persistence of the Old Regime Pantheon Books, New York, 1981.

Norman Stone The End of "Moral Order" / Europe Transformed 1878-1919. Blackwell Publishers, 1999

Roland N. Stromberg European Intellectual History since 1789. Prentice Hall, 1990.

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