Bodin: On Sovereignty

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Cambridge University Press, Apr 24, 1992 - History - 141 pages
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Bodin's Six livres de la république is a vast synthesis of comparative public law and politics, the theoretical core of which is formed by the four chapters translated in this volume. These contain his celebrated theory of sovereignty, which informed his thinking on the state and made his République a landmark in the development of European political thought. This theory, however, also included a seductive but erroneous thesis that was of great importance for the development of royalist ideology: the idea that sovereignty is indivisible, that the entire power of the state has to be vested in a single individual or group. This thesis, together with the crisis of authority in the French religious wars, led Bodin to a systematically absolutist interpretation of the French and other contemporary monarchies. His primary aim was to exclude any legal ground of forcible resistance. A king of France, he hoped, would continue to adhere to moral and prudential limitations, but a proper king, he insisted, could not be lawfully constrained. This is the first complete translation of these chapters into English since 1606. It is accompanied by a lucid introduction, a chronology, and a bibliography.
  

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Contents

Book I chapter 8 On sovereignty
1
Book I Chapter 1O On the true marks of sovereignty
46
Book II Chapter 1 On the kinds of state in general and whether there are more than three
89
Book II Chapter 5 Whether it is lawful to make an attempt upon the tyrants life and to nullify and repeal his ordinances after he is dead
110
Textual notes
127
Index
138
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About the author (1992)

One of the most influential French philosophers of the sixteenth century, Jean Bodin is known today for his political thought. Born in 1530, he received training in law at the University of Toulouse and became an advocate in Paris, where he won the favor of the royal family. Bodin's first major work, Method for the Easy Comprehension of History (Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem), published in 1566, provides an overall introduction to his philosophical system. The Six Bookes of a Commonweale, which appeared in French in 1576 and later in a Latin version, is in many respects his chief claim to fame as a political philosopher. It contains a strong defense of absolute sovereignty and of monarchy as the best form of government. His Demonomania, first published in 1580, is an elaborate account of witchcraft and sorcery intended to assist in the suppression of the black arts. Theatre of Nature (Universale theatrum naturae), printed in 1596, contains his cosmology and his speculations on the nature of the human soul, angels, and the spiritual world. Colloquium of the Seven (Colloquium heptaplomeres), composed in 1588, did not appear in print until the nineteenth century. It takes the form of a dialogue among seven sages of different religions and philosophical persuasions in search of a common creed. Although he was an active and, at times, controversial writer during the period of France's most bitter religious strife, Bodin seems to have avoided sectarian conflict while maintaining his loyalty to the Catholic Church and the monarchy. Bodin died in 1596.

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