dissertation

Republics, Passions, and Patria: Love of Country in Eighteenth Century Political Thought

The history of republican thought and the history of the passions are two threads that rarely find themselves intertwined, yet political theory finds itself in the midst of both a republican revival and the affective turn. By bringing these two vast subfields into dialogue with one another, we stand to learn about both republican political theory and political passions much that would otherwise remain oblique. I argue that civic virtue (a cornerstone of republicanism) and the passions share important connections to which contemporary republican political thought has not always been attentive. Specifically, neo-republicanism and constitutional patriotism’s inattention, or lack of commitment, to the interplay of civic virtue and emotion is a matter of choice and not a necessary outcome of the tradition. Continued neglect of the emotions' political import is not merely a case of historical inattentiveness but a significant challenge to both neo-republicanism and constitutional patriotism’s sustainability as political projects. This is particularly true if we take seriously their desire to engage with, and influence, concrete political events, as I believe we should, given Philip Pettit’s work with former Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and Jürgen Habermas’s ongoing engagement with the future of the European Union. Yet the contemporary literature, suffering from what I call an affective deficit, largely fails to account for this emotional dimension of virtue and thus for a central component of republican thought. Building on the theory of emotives developed by historian William Reddy in The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions (2001), and through a series of close readings of republican political philosophy from the eighteenth century, I develop a theory of affective practices in order to provide interpretations of Montesquieu on fear; Diderot on despair and respect; and Rousseau on love and sympathy. Through these explorations, we may better understand how the passions, and a “re-politicized” sense of civic virtue, are, and ought to be, employed in the pursuit, maintenance, and critique of republican politics by its contemporary defenders and detractors alike, particularly in the work of Habermas and Pettit.

filed June 2014


CHAPTER 3 | Rites of the Republic
Introduction: Affect, Civic Virtue, and Republicanism
I. Performing Re-founding through Ritual
II. Cultivating a Republican Amour-propre
III. Maintaining Civic Virtue in the “Mythic Present”
Conclusion: The Ceremony of Civic Identity

CHAPTER 4 | Tahiti Between Despair and Disrespect
Introduction: The Politics of Hospitality in Diderot’s Supplément
I. Bougainville, Raynal, and “les nations sauvages”
II. “Unfeeling hearts”: Violations of Hospitality
III. Republican Virtues Abroad: Neo-Republicanism and International Politics
Conclusion: Unsocial Sociability Across Borders

CONCLUSION | The Reinvigoration of Republican Virtue
I. Wordsworth at the Champ de Mars
II. A Republican Ethos of Affect?
III. Overcoming the Affective Deficit

Bibliography

 

 

 

Table of Contents

List of Images
Note on Sources and Translations
Acknowledgments
Vita


INTRODUCTION | The Lost Passions of Republican Political Thought
I. Republican Thought and the Emotional Turn in Political Theory
II. Contemporary Republican Political Theory and the Absence of the Passions
III. Organization of the Dissertation

CHAPTER 1 | How to Do Things with Emotions
Introduction: Emotional Lexicons
I. A Brief History of the Passions in Republican Political Thought
II. The Politics of Affect Theory
III. From Emotive Speech Acts to Affective Practices
Conclusion: Affective Practices and les philosophes

CHAPTER 2 | Fear, Excess, and the French Enlightenment
Introduction: Despotic Excesses and Republican Deficits
I. Despotism in Early Modern Thought
II. Despotic Passions in Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes
III. Roxane and “the poysoned fountaine”
Conclusion: Fearful Symmetry