Thursday, September 23, 2010

David Marquand

Causes one to wonder how this positive view of 'Republicanism' would apply in the US:

...there are certain philosophical and rhetorical themes in the republican tradition which are very powerful.

One of them is suspicion of arbitrary power. Quentin Skinner makes this point very strongly; and his writings have had a great deal of influence on me, particularly his Liberty before Liberalism. Skinner says, in effect, that what Isaiah Berlin calls ‘negative freedom’ is crucial, but that freedom from arbitrary power, from domination, is equally important. That is an immensely fertile notion and of course it doesn’t just apply to political power. It applies just as much to economic power. A classic example is the unaccountable power of the banks and hedge funds that procured the crash of 2008-9. So that’s one vitally important and highly relevant strand in republicanism.

The second aspect of the republican tradition which is still hugely relevant to British society here and now is its emphasis on republican self-respect as contrasted with monarchical servility. British political culture is still saturated with servility: look at the Honours Lists, with their Commanderships, Dameships and Orders of a non-existent empire. The themes that crop up in Milton’s later prose writings, when he was trying desperately to stop the return of the monarchy, still resonate strongly with me. One of his targets was what he called ‘bowing and cringing’. Well, you can find plenty of bowing and cringing in present-day Britain.

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