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

  • Author(s): Gallagher, Megan
  • Advisor(s): McClure, Kirstie M.
  • et al.

The contemporary revival of interest in republican political thought requires a substantive account of civic virtue as its motivating factor. Whereas liberalism will replace the burden of virtue with the burden of dispassionate judgment, republicanism clings to the potential of its citizenry's virtuosity and the idea that something akin to character is required to participate in politics. I argue that to enliven virtue, we must consider its relationship to the passions and their place in the historical republican tradition. Civic virtue's influence on republican practices derives not from juridical principles or institutional safeguards but from ethical and emotional commitments to extra-legal concepts such as duty, respect, and responsibility. Yet the contemporary literature on republicanism, suffering from what I call an affective deficit, largely fails to account for this emotional dimension. 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 thought from the eighteenth century, I develop a distinct theory of affective practices, defined as the ways in which feelings of devotion to one's country and fellow citizens are cogitated upon, judged, enacted in the body and communicated to others. I apply this theory of affective practices 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 Philip Pettit's work on neo-republicanism and J�rgen Habermas's on constitutional patriotism.

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