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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: January 2013

Conclusion. The argument, in summary


The argument of this book has taken us over a wide terrain, introducing the republican perspective, traditional and contemporary; presenting the ideal of freedom that lies at its core; sketching a theory and model of the social justice that this ideal would support; defending a matching, republican theory of political legitimacy; and then outlining a model of the democratic institutions that might be thought to satisfy that theory. In conclusion, I think the best thing I can do is to provide a summary of the claims maintained in the development of the argument. While the summary is inevitably sketchy and inexact, I hope that it will help to facilitate readers in finding their way through a book that I wanted to make shorter and simpler than it has turned out to be.


The main ideas in the republican tradition are: freedom as non-domination, the mixed constitution and the contestatory citizenry. Appearing in the Roman republic, in medieval and renaissance Italy, in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and Britain, and eventually in revolutionary America, they suggest that the state should enable its citizens – however inclusive – to act as free, undominated persons in the sphere of the fundamental liberties, being protected under a mixed, contestatory constitution.

This republican tradition came under sustained attack at the hands of Jeremy Bentham and William Paley in later eighteenth-century England, as they introduced a theory of freedom as non-interference. They argued that while the state should cater for the freedom of all citizens – now understood more inclusively – it should do so with only this less demanding ideal in view.

Italian–Atlantic republicanism was also challenged in the late eighteenth century by the communitarian republicanism of Jean Jacques Rousseau. While he continued to think of freedom as non-domination, he followed Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes in giving up on the mixed constitution and the contestatory citizenry. He argued that there had to be a single sovereign in any well-functioning state and thought that in a republic this should be the assembled, incorporated people.

The aim of this book is to build philosophically on the main republican ideas, developing a theory of social justice and, in particular, political legitimacy, where justice governs people’s relations with one another, legitimacy their relations with the state. The republican theory of legitimacy gives the state a democratic job specification, requiring it to operate under equally shared, popular control.

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On the People's Terms
  • Online ISBN: 9781139017428
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