ASTK18127U  Republicanism

Volume 2018/2019



Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


This course is an introduction to republicanism in Western political thought. Republicanism is fundamental in both senses of the term. As one of the most ancient theories in political thought it constitutes the foundation of Western societies. It is also one of the essential contemporary theories because it discusses problematics we face acutely today, albeit under different guises: Does security come at the price of liberty? Is violence legitimate and who should exert violence for a republic or in a republic? What is liberty and how can it be maintained? Do virtuous institutions or virtuous political actors produce effective government? What are republican virtues and how to maintain them? Is private wealth the enemy of the commonwealth or its lifeblood? Can a republic thrive on a large territory with a large body of citizens? Are democracy and republicanism compatible? Should citizens be educated and how? Who can/should be a citizen? What are the limits of a republic? Are republican values universal? Are republics more peaceful and stable than tyrannies? Would a world of republics be better than a single universal republic?

This introductory course will present a (subjective) choice of the main views and theories within republicanism in a lively and interactive way. The above questions and many others appeared at different time in Western history. We will see why famous philosophers asked them in the context of their time, and how their answers made sense then and if they still do today. The humanist renaissance established a curriculum based on rhetoric and philosophy for educating students to republican public life, studying Attic and Roman authors. The humanities were thus considered primordial for the good functioning of a state: philosophy to attain truth through critical thinking and morality through questioning choices; rhetoric to instruct how to persuade others of this truth and morality. Without claiming to revive this republican humanist tradition, this introductory course is nonetheless directed primarily at any student considering a career in government or in leading political and social institutions, but also any concerned citizen wishing to be an independent and well-functioning individual in a republic.

Learning Outcome


  • give an account of and take a critical stance towards the various theories and periods of republicanism
  • define and discuss the concepts of liberty and the concepts of republican morality (virtue, duty, etc.)


  • be able to apply republican theory to current events
  • evaluate and put into perspective the various forms of republicanism
  • debate pros and cons of republican ideas


  • independently formulate a republican solution to an economic, legal, and/or ethical problem
  • structure and initiate empirical or theoretical analyses in collaboration with related subject areas


  1. Introduction: Republicanism, definitions, origins, traditions, history, controversies, and concepts

Dagger, Richard (2011). ‘Republicanism’. In The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy Edited by George Klosko. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (12pages)

Laborde, Cécile (2013). ‘Republicanism’. In The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies. Edited by Michael Freeden and Marc Stears. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (25 pages)

Laborde, Cécile, and John Maynor, ‘The Republican Contribution to Contemporary Political Theory’, ch.1 in Republicanism and Political Theory, pp. 1-28 (28 pages)

Christopher Nadon, “Republicanism: Ancient, Medieval, and Beyond,” in A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, pp. 529-541 (12pages)

Listen to the podcast with Pettit on Republicanism.

Listen to podcast with Skinner on republicanism (selection):

19:41: What is republicanism, and why is it important?

25:00: What does the Irish case teach us about republicanism?

28:00: Your new book is about teaching the humanities. Why is that so important?

(33:10: What is the meaning of laughter?)

(37:15: What is Hobbes’ theory of political representation?)

40:45: How do classical debates about representation bear upon the present?

43:50: How much can we learn from the past?

49:02: How do you see yourself entering public debate as a moralist?

2. Liberty I: ancient/modern, negative/positive, non-domination

Primary readings:

Constant, Liberty of the Ancients, Liberty of the Moderns(18 pages)

Berlin, ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ (20 pages)

Pettit, ch 1 + 2, in Republicanism  pp. 17-79 (62 pages)

Secondary readings (optional):

Patten, Alan. “The Republican Critique of Liberalism.” British Journal of Political Science 26.1 (1996): 25-44.

  1. Liberty II: Neo-republicanism, the link between history and contemporary political thought

Primary readings (in order of importance):

  1. Skinner, Quentin ‘The Neo-Roman Theory of Free States’, ch 1. In Liberty Before Liberalism. Pp. 1-57 (57 pages) [optional: or ch 1 +2= 100 pages, or the whole book 120 pages, but small]
  2. Pocock, J.G.A. (1975). The Machiavellian Moment: Part I ch.3 ‘The Vita Activa and the Vivere Civile’, pp. 49-80 (31 pages)

(optional) Skinner, Q, 2008. ‘Freedom as the absence of arbitrary power’. Pp. 83–101 in Republicanism and Political Theory (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., eds. C. Laborde and J. Maynor. Oxford: Blackwell. (18 pages)

Secondary readings (optional)

Pettit, (2010) ‘Republicanism: Once more with Hindsight’. Ch. 11 in Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom. Pp. 283-305. (22 pages)

Kapust, Daniel. “Skinner, Pettit and Livy: The Conflict of the Orders and the Ambiguity of Republican Liberty.” History of Political Thought 25.3 (2004): 377-401.

Fun listening:

Podcast with Philip Pettit.

  1. Mixed Constitution I: Aristotle & Polybius

Primary readings:

Aristotle (2017). Politics: A New Translation. Translated, with Introduction and Notes, by C. D. C. Reeve. Series: The New Hackett Aristotle. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett. Book I.1-2 (4 pages), IV (28 pages), V (33 pages), VI (14 pages). [79 pages total] (OPTIONAL: books II and III)

Polybius (2010). The Histories. Translated by Robin Waterfield and Edited by Brian McGing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Book VI 1-18 (17 pages) + 43-58 (14 pages) [31 pages total]

Further readings (optional):

Fergus Millar, “Polybius and the Roman Constitution,” in The Roman Republic in Political Thought. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England for Brandeis University Press, 2002, pp. 23-36 (13 pages)

McGing, Brian. Polybius’ Histories, ch. 5 ‘The Political Theorizing of Book 6’. Pp. 114-135 (22 pages)

Joy Connolly, The Life of Roman Republicanism, introduction and chapter 2

Nippel, Wilfried. “Ancient and Modern Republicanism: ‘Mixed Constitution’ and ‘Ephor.’” In The Invention of the Modern Republic, ed. Biancamaria Fontana, 6-26. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Balot, Ryan. “Polybius’ Advice to the Imperial Republic.” Political Theory 38.4 (2010): 483-509.

  1. Mixed constitution II: Cicero, Livy, Sallust

Primary readings:

  1. Cicero, Marcus Tullius (1999). On the Commonwealth; and, On the Laws, ed. J. E. G. Zetzel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    1. On the Commonwealth: 1.33-71 (16 pages), 2.1-66 (55 pages)
    2. On the Laws: book 3 (19 pages)
  2. Either Sallust or Livy (your choice, ideally well-distributed among you for presentation):
    1. Sallust, Catiline’s Conspiracy (46 pages)
    2. Livy, History of Rome, 1.42-60 (20 pages), 2.1-2 (2 pages), 2.27-33 (10 pages), 3.32-55 (30 pages).

Optional podcast

Very interesting podcast with Dr Valentina Arena ‘Rome, Liberty, and Rhetoric’.

Episode of BBC’s ‘In our Time’ on Cicero, with Melissa Lane, Catherine Steel, and Valentina Arena.

Further readings (optional) 

Fergus Millar, The Roman Republic in Political Thought. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England for Brandeis University Press, 2002.

Colish, Marcia L. “Cicero’s De Officiis and Machiavelli’s Prince.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 9.4 (1978): 80-93.

  1. Northern Italian Renaissance: Florence

Primary Readings:

  1. Machiavelli Discourses on Livy. (Book I: 1-12, 16-21, 34-58; Book II: 12-13, 29-30, Book III: 1-5).

Ideally in one of these versions, but they are not online:

  • Machiavelli, Niccolò (1995). Discourses on Livy. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Machiavelli, Niccolò (2009). Discourses on Livy, translated by J.C. Bondanella. Oxford:  Oxford University Press.
  1. (OPTIONAL if you can even find it!): Guicciardini How to Bring Order to Popular Government. In Athanasios Moulakis, Republican Realism in Renaissance Florence. And Francesco Guicciardini’s Discorso di Logrogno.

Further Readings (Optional)

Skinner, Quentin (1981). Machiavelli. Oxford: Oxford University Press, ch. 3, pp. 54-87 (33 pages)

Skinner, “Machiavelli on virtù and the Maintenance of Liberty,” in Visions of Politics II: Renaissance Virtues, pp. 160-185 (25 pages)

McCormick, John. Machiavellian Democracy. Chapters 1-3, 6.

  1. English civil war and glorious revolution:

Primary readings:

Harrington, The Commonwealth of Oceana, Cambridge University Press (1992).  pp. 8-42, 69-76, 217-66 [90 pages]


Hobbes, Leviathan 17-19, 21 [23 pages]

Cato’s Letters


Blog post by specialist Dr Rachel Hammersley on James Harrington and why his political thought is worthy of attention.

Further readings (optional):

Andrew, Edward (2011) Imperial Republics: Revolution, War and Territorial Expansion from the English Civil War to the French Revolution. University of Toronto Press. Pp. 1-17 pp. 27-48

Scott, Jonathan. Commonwealth Principles: Republican Writing of the English Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

  1. American war of independence and revolution:

Primary readings:

Publius (Hamilton, Madison). Federalist Papers (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.: 9 (Hamilton), 10 (Madison) , 47  (Madison), 48 (Madison), 49 (Hamilton or Madison), 50 (Hamilton or Madison), 51 (Hamilton or Madison) [15 pages]

John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. 3 vols, London. C. Dilly, 1787–1788 (Read the conclusion, Letter LV ) [10 pages]

John Adams, Letter to Mercy Otis Warren (16 April 1776)
.[1 page]

Adams to Mercy Warren, 20 July 1807  [3 pages]

Thomas Paine (1792) The Rights of Man (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.: Part I Observations on the Declaration of Rights [3 pages], Miscellaneous chapter. [30 pages], + Part II Ch. I Of Society and Civilization, ch. II Of the Origin of the present old Governments, Ch. III Of the new and old Systems of Government, Ch. IV Of Constitutions. [45 pages]

Optional readings:

Wood, Gordon. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998 [1969].

Gould, Philip. “Virtue, Ideology, and the American Revolution: The Legacy of the Republican Synthesis.” American Literary History 5.3 (1993): 564-577.

  1. French Enlightenment and revolution:

Rousseau, The Social Contract. Read: Book I and Book II  (26 + 40 pages = 66 pages)

Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, (Book 1, Chapters 1-3 (7 pages); Books 2 (11pages), 3 (10 pages), 5 (30 pages), Book 11 chapters 1-4 and 6 (2 + 10 pages). [Optional book 11 ch. 12-18]


Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws ,(Book  8; Book 11, chapter 11.1-4)

Fénelon, François (1994[1699]). Telemachus. Book VII: land of Bétique. pp. 97-114 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (17 pages)

Montesquieu: ‘Troglodytes’ in Persian Letters : Letter XI Usbek to Mirza.

Further readings (optional):

McCormick, John. “Rousseau’s Rome and the Repudiation of Populist Republicanism.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 10.1 (2007): 3-27

Nannerl Keohane, “Virtuous Republics and Glorious Monarchies: Two Models in Montesquieu’s Political Thought,” Political Studies 20.4 (1972), pp. 383-396

H.T. Parker, The Cult of Antiquity and the French Revolutionaries: A Study in the Development of the Revolutionary Spirit. Chicago. University of Chicago Press, 1937

Robert L. Herbert (1972) David, Voltaire, Brutus, and the French Revolution: An Essay in Art and Politics. London: Penguin Press.

Althusser Politics and History: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Hegel and Marx

Andrew, Edward (2011) Imperial Republics: Revolution, War and Territorial Expansion from the English Civil War to the French Revolution. University of Toronto Press. Pp. 1-17 pp. 116-139 pp. 140-166

  1. Essay Supervision
  2. Freedom, Power, and Violence:

Arendt, Hannah. On Revolution. New York, NY: The Viking Press (1963): Introduction (pp. 1-11), ch. 1. (pp. 13-52). (49 pages). Optional: [ch 4 + 5 pp. 132-206 (74 pages)]

Arendt, Hannah. ‘The Freedom to be Free’, New England Review, Volume 38, Number 2, 2017, pp. 56-69 (13 pages).

Carter, Ian, ‘How are Power and Unfreedom Related?’, ch. 3 in Republicanism and Political Theory. Pp. 58-82 (34 pages)


Wolin, Sheldon (1960). Politics and vision, continuity and innovation in Western political thought. Boston: Little, Brown and Company: ch. 1 pp. 1-27 (27 pages) + ch. 16 pp. 557-580 (23 pages) + ch. 17? Pp. 581-606 (25 pages)

  1. Critical Republicanism (republicanism and religion)

Laborde, Critical Republicanism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Chapters 1, 5, 6, 7.

Spitz, ‘Headscarves in School Again: How Republican Is the 2004 Law Banning Ostentatious Religious Signs from Public Schools?’ in J.-C. Merle (ed.), Spheres of Global Justice: Volume 1 Global Challenges to Liberal Democracy. Political Participation, Minorities and Migrations. (12 pages)


Beiner, Ronald. Civil Religion: A Dialogue in the History of Political Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

  1. Migration and Borders
  1. Joseph Carens, “Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders,” The Review of Politics 49 (1987): 251-273. (21 pages)
  2. Arash Abizadeh, “Democratic Theory and Border Coercion: No Right to Unilaterally Control Your Own Borders,” Political Theory 36.1 (2008): 37-65. (28 pages)
  3. Victoria Costa, “Republican Liberty and Border Controls,” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 19.4 (2016): 400-415. (15 pages)
  4. David Owen, “Republicanism and the Constitution of Migrant Statuses,” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 17.1 (2004): 90-110. (20 pages)
  1. Cosmopolitan Republicanism

Primary readings:

Bohman (2001). ‘Cosmopolitan Republicanism: Citizenship, Freedom, and Global Political Authority’, Monist, vol. 84, n.1, 3-21 (18 pages)

Laborde, C. (2010). ‘Republicanism and Global Justice: A Sketch’. European Journal of Political Theory9(1), 48–69. (21 pages)

Lena Halldenius, “Building Blocks of a Republican Cosmopolitanism: The Modality of Being Free,” European Journal of Political Theory 9.1 (2010): 12-30. (28 pages)


Bellamy, ‘Republicanism, Democracy, and Constitutionalism’. In Republicanism and Political Theory, edited by Cecile Laborde, et al., John Wiley & Sons, 2008: pp. 159-189 (30 pages)

Bohman, ‘Non-domination and Transnational Democracy’. In Republicanism and Political Theory, Pp. 190-216 (26 pages)

Teaching and learning methods

Each session will start with a quick recap of the past one in the form of a quiz. A short presentation of the texts will follow addressing the historical/​cultural/​political/​economic context. The second part of the session will focus on interactive debates on the questions raised in the readings.

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Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)


Individual written feedback on the term paper.

Collective verbal feedback during the course.

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7,5 ECTS

Type of assessment

Written assignment

Free assignment

Marking scale

7-point grading scale

Censorship form

No external censorship


Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course’s goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner


Class Instruction: 28 hours total


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