Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context. The sometimes contrary definitions are all covered in this article.
Radicalism emerged in European states in the 19th century. Although most radical parties later came to be in favor of economic liberalism (capitalism), thus justifying the absorption of radicalism into the liberal tradition, all 19th century radicals were in favor of a constitutional republic and universal suffrage, while European liberals were at the time in favor of constitutional monarchy and census suffrage. Thus, radicals were as much Republicans as liberals, if not more. This distinction between Radicalism and Liberalism hasn't totally disappeared in the 20th century, although many radicals simply joined liberal parties or became virtually identical to them. For example, the Left Radical Party in France or the (originally Italian) Transnational Radical Party which exist today have a lot more to do with Republicanism than with simple liberalism.
Thus, Chartism in the UK or even the early Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party in France were closer to Republicanism (and the left-wing) than to liberalism, represented in France by the Orleanists who rallied to the Republic only in the late 19th century, after the comte de Chambord's 1883 death and the 1891 papal encyclical De Rerum Novarum. Radicalism remained close to Republicanism in the 20th century, at least in France where they governed several times with the other left-wing parties (participating in both the Cartel des gauches coalitions as well as the Popular Front).
Discredited after the Second World War, French Radicals split into a left-wing party – the Left Radical Party, an associate of the Socialist Party – and the Radical Party "valoisien", an associate party of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and its Gaullist predecessors. Italian Radicals also maintained close links with Republicanism as well as Socialism, with the Partito radicale founded in 1955 which became the Transnational Radical Party in 1989.
Anti-monarchial republicanism remains a political force of varying importance in many states. In the European monarchies, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden there has not been much contemporary popular support for republicanism. In such states republicanism is usually motivated by decreasing popularity of the Royal Family, who may be increasingly embroiled in scandal or conflict. However the classical argument against monarchy versus the egalitarian aspects of republicanism will often remain prominent as well. There are also republican movements of varying size and effect in the Commonwealth nations Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica and Barbados. In these countries, republicanism is largely about the post-colonial evolution of their relationships with the United Kingdom.
A different interpretation of republicanism is used among political scientists. To them a republic is the rule by many and by laws while a princedom is the arbitrary rule by one. By this definition despotic states are not republics while, according to some such as Kant, constitutional monarchies can be. Kant also argues that a pure democracy is not a republic, as it is the unrestricted rule of the majority. For some, republicanism meant simply the lack of a monarchy, while for others monarchy was compatible with republicanism.
In Ancient Greece several philosophers and historians set themselves to analysing and describing forms of government of classical republicanism. There is no single written expression or definition from this era that exactly corresponds with a modern understanding of the term "republic". However, most of the essential features of the modern definition are present in the works of Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, and other ancient Greeks. These elements include the ideas of mixed government and of civic virtue. It should be noted that the modern title of Plato's dialogue on the ideal state (The Republic) is a misnomer when seen through the eyes of modern political science (see Republic (Plato)). Some scholars have translated the Greek concept of "politeia" as "republic", but most modern scholars reject this idea.
A serious claim for early democratic institutions comes from the independent "republics" of India, sanghas and ganas, which existed as early as the sixth century BC and persisted in some areas until the fourth century AD. The evidence is scattered and no pure historical source exists for that period. In addition, Diodorus (a Greek historian at the time of Alexander the Great's excursion of India), mentions that independent and democratic states existed in India.
Both Livy (in Latin, living in Augustus' time) and Plutarch (in Greek, a century later) described how Rome had developed its legislation, notably the transition from kingdom to republic, based on Greek examples. Probably some of this history, composed more than half a millennium after the events, with scant written sources to rely on, is fictitious reconstruction - nonetheless the influence of the Greek way of dealing with government is clear in the state organisation of the Roman Republic.
The Greek historian Polybius, writing more than a century before Livy, was one of the first historians describing the emergence of the Roman Empire, and he had a great influence on Cicero when this orator was writing his politico-philosophical works in the 1st century BC. One of these works was De re publica, where Cicero links the Latin res publica concept to the Greek politeia." As explained in the res publica article, this concept only partly correlates with the modern term "republic," although the word "republic" is derived from res publica.
Among the many meanings of the term res publica, it is most often translated "Republic" where the Latin expression refers to the Roman state and its form of government between the era of the Kings and the era of the Emperors. This Roman Republic would by a modern understanding of the word still be defined as a true republic, even if not coinciding in all the features. Enlightenment philosophers saw it as an ideal system; for example there was no systematic separation of powers in the Roman Republic.
Romans still called their state "Res Publica" in the era of the early emperors. The reason for this is that on the surface the state organisation of the Republic had been preserved by the first emperors without great alteration. Several offices from the era of the Republic held by individuals were combined under the control of a single person. These forms were accorded "permanent" status and thus gradually placed sovereignty in the person of the Emperor. Traditionally, such references to the early empire are not translated as "republic".
As for Cicero, his description of the ideal state in De re publica is more difficult to qualify as a "republic" in modern terms. It is rather something like enlightened absolutism--not to say benevolent dictatorship--and indeed Cicero's philosophical works, as available at that time, were very influential when Enlightenment philosophers like Voltaire developed these concepts. Cicero expressed however reservations concerning the republican form of government: in his theoretical works he defended monarchy (or a monarchy/oligarchy mixed government at best); in his own political life he generally opposed men trying to realise such ideals, like Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Octavian. Eventually, that opposition led to his death. So, depending on how one reads history, Cicero could be seen as a victim of his own deep-rooted republican ideals, too.
Tacitus, a contemporary of Plutarch, was not concerned with whether on an abstract level a form of government could be analysed as a "republic" or a "monarchy" (see for example Ann. IV, 32-33). He analyzes how the powers accumulated by the early Julio-Claudian dynasty were all given to the representants of this dynasty by a State that was and remained in an ever more "abstract" way a republic; nor was the Roman Republic "forced" to give away these powers to single persons in a consecutive dynasty: it did so out of free will, and reasonably in Augustus' case, because of his many services to the state, freeing it from civil wars and the like.
But at least Tacitus is one of the first to follow this line of thought: asking in what measure such powers were given to the head of state because the citizens wanted to give them, and in which measure they were given because of other principles (for example, because one had a deified ancestor) — such other principles leading more easily to abuse by the one in power. In this sense, that is in Tacitus' analysis, the trend away from the Republic was irreversible only when Tiberius established power shortly after Augustus' death (AD 14, much later than most historians place the start of the Imperial form of government in Rome): by this time too many principles defining some powers as "untouchable" had been implemented to keep Tiberius from exercising certain powers, and the age of "sockpuppetry in the external form of a republic", as Tacitus more or less describes this Emperor's reign, began (Ann. I-VI).
In classical meaning, republic was any established political community with government above it. Both Plato and Aristotle saw three basic types of government, democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. However an ideal type was considered mixed government. First Plato and Aristotle, and especially Polybius and Cicero developed the notion that the ideal republic is a mixture of these three forms of government and the writers of the Renaissance embraced this notion.
In Europe, republicanism was revived in the late Middle Ages when a number of small states embraced a republican system of government. These were generally small, but wealthy, trading states in which the merchant class had risen to prominence. Haakonssen notes that by the Renaissance Europe was divided with those states controlled by a landed elite being monarchies and those controlled by a commercial elite being republics. These included Italian city states like Florence and Venice and the members of the Hanseatic League.
Building upon political arrangements of medieval feudalism, the Renaissance scholars built upon their conception of the ancient world to advance their view of the ideal government. The usage of the term res publica in classical texts should not be confused with current notions of republicanism. Despite its name Plato's The Republic (Πολιτεία) also has little to no connection to the Latin res publica from which derives the more recent historical phenomenon of republicanism.
The republicanism developed in the Renaissance is known as classical republicanism because of its reliance on classical models. This terminology was developed by Zera Fink in the 1960s but some modern scholars such as Brugger consider the term confusing as it might lead some to believe that "classical republic" refers to the system of government used in the ancient world. "Early modern republicanism" has been advanced as an alternative term.
Also sometimes called civic humanism, this ideology grew out of the Renaissance writers who developed the idea of the republic. More than being simply a non-monarchy the early modern thinkers developed a vision of the ideal republic. It is these notions that form the basis of the ideology of republicanism. One important notion was that of a mixed government. Also central the notion of virtue and the pursuit of the common good being central to good government. Republicanism also developed its own distinct view of liberty, though what exactly that view is much disputed.
Those Renaissance authors that spoke highly of republics were rarely critical of monarchies. While Niccolò Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy is the period's key work on republics he also wrote The Prince on how to best run a monarchy. One cause of this was that the early modern writers did not see the republican model as one that could be applied universally, most felt that it could be successful only in very small and highly urbanized city-states. Jean Bodin in Six Books of the Commonwealth identified monarchy with republic.
In antiquity writers like Tacitus, and in the Renaissance writers like Machiavelli tried to avoid formulating an outspoken preference for one government system or another. Enlightenment philosophers, on the other hand, always had an outspoken opinion.
In England a republicanism evolved that was not wholly opposed to monarchy, but rather thinkers such as Thomas More and Sir Thomas Smith saw a monarchy firmly constrained by law as compatible with republicanism.
Anti-monarchism became far more strident in the Dutch Republic during and after the Eighty Years' War, which began in 1568. This anti-monarchism was less political philosophy and more propagandizing with most of the anti-monarchist works appearing in the form of widely distributed pamphlets. Over time this evolved into a systematic critique of monarchies written by men such as Johan Uytenhage de Mist, Radboud Herman Scheel, Lieven de Beaufort and the brothers Johan and Peter de la Court. These writers saw all monarchies as illegitimate tyrannies that were inherently corrupt. Less an attack on their former overlords these works were more concerned with preventing the position of Stadholder from evolving into a monarchy. This Dutch republicanism also had an important influence on French Huguenots during the Wars of Religion. In the other states of early modern Europe republicanism was more moderate.
In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth republicanism became an important ideology. After establishment of the Commonwealth of Two Nations republicans were those who supported the status quo of having a very weak monarch and opposed those who felt a stronger monarchy was needed. These mostly Polish republicans such as Łukasz Górnicki, Andrzej Wolan, and Stanisław Konarski were well read in classical and Renaissance texts and firmly believed that their state was a Republic on the Roman model and started to call their state the Rzeczpospolita. Unlike in the other countries, Polish-Lithuanian republicanism was not the ideology of the commercial class, but rather of the landed aristocracy, who would be the ones to lose power if the monarchy was expanded - what led to oligarchisation by great magnates.
From the Enlightenment on it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between the descriptions and definitions of the "republic" concept on the one side, and the ideologies based on such descriptions on the other.
Oliver Cromwell set up a republic called the Commonwealth of England (1649-1660) and ruled as a near dictator after the overthrow of King Charles I. A leading philosopher of republicanism was James Harrington. The collapse of the Commonwealth of England in 1660 and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II discredited republicanism among England's ruling circles. However they welcomed the liberalism and emphasis on rights of John Locke, which played a major role in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Nevertheless republicanism flourished in the "country" party of the early 18th century. That party denounced the corruption of the "court" party, producing a political theory that heavily influenced the American colonists. In general the ruling classes of the 18th century vehemently opposed republicanism, as typified by the attacks on John Wilkes, and especially by the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
French and Swiss Enlightenment thinkers such as Montesquieu and later Rousseau expanded upon and altered the ideas of what an ideal republic would be: some of their new ideas were scarcely retraceable to antiquity or the Renaissance thinkers. Among other things they contributed and/or heavily elaborated notions like social contract, positive law, and mixed government. They also borrowed from and distinguished it from the ideas of liberalism that were developing at the same time. Since both liberalism and republicanism were united in their opposition to the absolute monarchies they were frequently conflated during this period. Modern scholars see them as two distinct streams that both contributed to the democratic ideals of the modern world. An important distinction is that while republicanism continued to stress the importance of civic virtue and the common good, liberalism was based on economics and individualism. It might be argued that while liberalism developed a view of liberty as pre-social and sees all institutions as limiting liberty, republicanism sees some institutions as necessary to create liberty. It is most vivid in the issue of private property which may be maintained only under protection of established positive law. On the other hand, liberalism is strongly committed to some institutions e.g. the Rule of Law. Jules Ferry, the prime minister of France from 1880 to 1885, also followed these schools of thought and eventually enacted the Ferry Laws which intended to overturn the Falloux Laws, by embracing the anti-clerical thinking of the philosophs. These laws ended the Catholic Church's involvement with many government institutions in late 19th-century France, including education.
In recent years a debate has developed over its role in the American Revolution and in the British radicalism of the eighteenth century. For many decades the consensus was that liberalism, especially that of John Locke, was paramount and that republicanism had a distinctly secondary role.
The new interpretations were pioneered by J.G.A. Pocock who argued in The Machiavellian Moment (1975) that, at least in the early eighteenth-century, republican ideas were just as important as liberal ones. Pocock's view is now widely accepted.. Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood pioneered the argument that the American Founding Fathers were more influenced by republicanism than they were by liberalism. Cornell University Professor Isaac Kramnick, on the other hand, argues that Americans have always been highly individualistic and therefore Lockean.
In the decades before the American Revolution (1776), the intellectual and political leaders of the colonies studied history intently, looking for guides or models for good (and bad) government. They especially followed the development of republican ideas in England. Pocock explained the intellectual sources in America:
The commitment of most Americans to these republican values made inevitable the American Revolution, for Britain was increasingly seen as corrupt and hostile to republicanism, and a threat to the established liberties the Americans enjoyed.
It has long been agreed that republicanism, especially that of Rousseau, played a central role in the French Revolution as turning point to modern republicanism. The French Revolution, which was to throw over the French monarchy in the 1790s, installed, at first, a republic; Napoleon turned it into an Empire with a new aristocracy. In the 1830s Belgium adopted some of the innovations of the progressive political philosophers of the Enlightenment too.
Républicanisme is a French version of modern Republicanism. It is a social contract concept, deduced from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's idea of a general will. Ideally, each citizen is engaged in a direct relationship with the state, obviating the need for group identity politics based on local, religious, or racial identification.
In the Enlightenment anti-monarchism stopped being coextensive with the civic humanism of the Renaissance. Classical republicanism, still supported by philosophers such as Rousseau and Montesquieu, was just one of a number of theories not opposed directly to monarchy, however putting some limitations to it. The new forms of anti-monarchism such as liberalism and later socialism quickly overtook classical republicanism as the leading republican ideologies. Republicanism also became far more widespread and monarchies began to be challenged throughout Europe.
Republicanism became the dominant political value of Americans during and after the American Revolution. The "Founding Fathers" were strong advocates of republican values, especially Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.
In some countries forming parts of the British Empire, and later the Commonwealth of Nations, republicanism has had very different significance in various countries at various times, depending on the context.
In South Africa, republicanism in the 1960s was identified with the staunch supporters of apartheid, who resented what they considered British interference in the way they treated the country's black majority population, despite the fact that the country was by that point an independent state with its own legally distinct monarchy.
This new school of historical revisionism has accompanied a general revival of republican thinking. In recent years a great number of thinkers have argued that republican ideas should be adopted. This new thinking is sometimes referred to as neo-republicanism. Engeman referred to republicanism as "an intellectual buzzword" that has been applied to a wide range of theories and postulates that have little in common in order to give them a certain cachet.
The most important theorists in this movement are Philip Pettit and Cass Sunstein who have each written a number of works defining republicanism and how it differs from liberalism. While a late convert to republicanism from communitarianism, Michael Sandel is perhaps the most prominent advocate in the United States for replacing or supplementing liberalism with republicanism as outlined in his Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy. As of yet these theorists have had little impact on government. John W. Maynor, argues that Bill Clinton was interested in these notions and that he integrated some of them into his 1995 "new social compact" State of the Union Address.
This revival also has its critics. David Wootton, for instance, argues that throughout history the meanings of the term republicanism have been so diverse, and at times contradictory, that the term is all but meaningless and any attempt to build a cogent ideology based around it will fail.
Republicanism is a system that replaces or accompanies inherited rule. The keys are a positive emphasis on liberty, and a negative rejection of corruption. In the late 20th century there has been so much convergence between democracy and republicanism that confusion results. As a distinct political theory, republicanism originated in classical history and became important in early modern Europe, as typfied by Machiavelli. It became especially important as a cause of the American Revolution and the French Revolution in the 1770s and 1790s, respectively. Republicans in these particular instances tended to reject inherited elites and aristocracies, but the question was open amongst them whether the republic, in order to restrain unchecked majority rule, should have an unelected upper chamber, the members perhaps appointed meritorious experts, or should have a constitutional monarch.
Although conceptually separate from democracy, republicanism included the key principles of rule by the consent of the governed and sovereignty of the people. In effect republicanism meant that the kings and aristocracies were not the real rulers, but rather the people as a whole were. Exactly how the people were to rule was an issue of democracy – republicanism itself did not specify how. In the United States, the solution was the creation of political parties that were popularly based on the votes of the people, and which controlled the government (see Republicanism in the United States). Many exponents of republicanism, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson were strong promoters of representative democracy. However, other supporters of republicanism, such as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, were more distrustful of majority rule and sought a government with more power for elites. There were similar debates in many other democratizing nations.
In contemporary usage, the term democracy refers to a government chosen by the people, whether it is direct or representative. The term republic has many different meanings, but today often refers to a representative democracy with an elected head of state, such as a president, serving for a limited term, in contrast to states with a hereditary monarch as a head of state, even if these states also are representative democracies with an elected or appointed head of government such as a prime minister.
The Founding Fathers of the United States rarely praised and often criticized democracy, which in their time tended to specifically mean direct democracy; James Madison argued, especially in The Federalist No. 10, that what distinguished a democracy from a republic was that the former became weaker as it got larger and suffered more violently from the effects of faction, whereas a republic could get stronger as it got larger and combats faction by its very structure. What was critical to American values, John Adams insisted, was that the government be "bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend."
Initially, after the American and French revolutions, the question was open whether a democracy, in order to restrain unchecked majority rule, should have an upper chamber – the members perhaps appointed meritorious experts or having lifetime tenures – or should have a constitutional monarch with limited but real powers. Some countries (such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Scandinavian countries, and Japan) turned powerful monarchs into constitutional ones with limited or, often gradually, merely symbolic roles. Often the monarchy was abolished along with the aristocratic system, whether or not they were replaced with democratic institutions (such as in the US, France, China, Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Egypt). In Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Papua New Guinea, and some other countries, the monarch is given supreme executive power, but by convention acts only on the advice of his or her ministers. Many nations had elite upper houses of legislatures, the members of which often had lifetime tenure, but eventually these houses lost power (as in Britain's House of Lords), or else became elective and remained powerful (as in the United States Senate).
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic with an emphasis on liberty and the civic virtue practiced by citizens. Republicanism always stands in opposition to aristocracy, oligarchy, and dictatorship. More broadly, it refers to a political system that protects liberty, especially by incorporating a rule of law that cannot be arbitrarily ignored by the government. According to John Adams, “They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men.” Much of the literature deals with the issue of what sort of values and behavior by the citizens is necessary if the republic is to survive and flourish; the emphasis has been on widespread citizen participation, civic virtue, and opposition to corruption.