Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 12 December 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This article argues that Spinoza is a modern republican political philosopher. He combines Machiavelli’s idea of liberty with Hobbes’s version of the social contract. This claim has four basic elements. First, Spinoza rejects Hobbes’s view that the individual must alienate his natural rights to form a state through a contract. Rather, the contract’s validity depends on a continuous and dynamic transfer of power from its citizens, which is defined as participation in public life. Second, the stability of a state depends on how effectively the regime can foster participation in the state. Spinoza uses his theory of the imagination and passions to explain how the state can overcome free-rider problems in the social contract. Hence the republican ideal of government is expressed not so much in any particular constitutional form of the state but in how well each form can foster participation. Although democracy expresses the highest degree of participation—and hence stability—aristocracy and even monarchy can be also optimized. Third, the participation of the individual in the state is not an end in itself but the means to the individual’s own freedom. So, although participation in the state is a necessary condition of individual well-being, it is certainly not sufficient to become virtuous. Fourth, the participation of individuals in the state, the quality and structure of state stability, as a well as the freedom of the state and individual, all depend on the degree of rationality manifest in both the individual and in the institutional structures of the state.

Keywords: Aristocracy, Collective Action Problems, Democracy, Freedom, Free-Rider, Hobbes, Liberty, Machiavelli, Monarchy, Natural Law, Natural Right, Participation, Republicanism, Social Contract, Virtue

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.