Government and Political Philosophy

For the past two weeks, we have examined European expansion and religion during the Early Modern period of Europe’s history. Now we will look at government and political philosophy. Following the crisis of the 17th century (which included catastrophic wars of religion we covered last week), states began to grow more stable, and power becomes more and more centralized in secular rulers. A large reason for this rests on the establishment of powerful monarchies, or Absolute Monarchies.Though leaders in Austria, Prussia, and Russia would follow similar models, the most famous example of Absolutism comes from France under Louis XIV. Louis becomes the embodiment of the monarchy as a strong, central, all-powerful institution, and comes to the height of his power in the late 17th century. Personified the idea of “L’Etat c’est moi”- “I am the state”, which in many ways summarizes Absolute rule: power resting largely with the king. In the end, the power of the state and the monarch in Absolutism become one and the same. As Duke Saint-Simon wrote about all of the significant figures of government and economics who lived at the Palace of Versailles, anyone “could see everyone he needed in the space of an hour.”Perhaps one of the greatest advocates for Absolutism was Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes’ belief in Absolutism was severely challenged when his home country of England tried and executed its king during the English Civil War. Even with events like the English Civil War, which challenged the rule of a divine monarch, states would continue to become more and more autonomous during the 17th century. Even John Locke, who’s father fought on the side of Parliament during the English Civil War, saw the necessity for some kind of ruler, which partially explains his support for William and Mary and the English Bill of Rights following the Glorious Revolution. Despite potential restrictions of their rule as the result of these “social contracts,” rulers were able to consolidate their power and forge the map of Europe that we all know today. During all this, a major question that all of these states were attempting to answer was how to rule these newly consolidated states. Pay particular attention to how Hobbes and Locke viewed systems of government and societies, ideas that will influence both Absolutism and our own form of Constitutionalism (which comes in many ways from the English model).I will note that this week we are looking at an odd combination of abstract political philosophy with practical state formation during the 16th and 17th centuries. Do your best to use examples from your readings and other assigned material.This week, we will have both the Discussion Posts and the Discussion Paper due.Discussion PromptThe relationship between the people and the state was a central question across Europe in the 17th century. This question was addressed by the like of Hobbes and Locke though the idea of a “social contract.” How would you define the social contract, making use of Hobbes, Locke, or the rulers of France and England we looked at for this week?Please do not be overly general, but instead, illustrate specific details from the assigned material. Remember, your posts should be at least one to two paragraphs. Keep in mind a paragraph is three to five complete sentences.Respond to this thread and this thread only. Do your best not to repeat the examples given by your fellow students. Also, remember that you need to respond to at least one other post to receive full points.

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