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Security, Universalism and Community as Conflicting Priorities in Early Modern Polictical Theory about International Relations: Three Visions of Peaceful Coexistence

25 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 16 Nov 2009

Peter Mohanty

University of Texas at Austin, Dept of Government

Benjamin Gregg

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Government

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

This paper shows that early modern political theorists adopted one of three basic priorities: security, universalism or community. Thinkers who prioritize security (either physical or financial) prioritize the normatively "thin good before the right." Those who adopt a strongly universal morality thereby prioritize "the right before the good," regardless of whether that good is normatively thick or thin. Those who take a healthy moral and political community as their point of departure thereby prioritize the "thick good before the right." We show that Hobbes, Montesquieu, Hume and Smith are representative of the normatively "thin good before the right." These authors offer an interesting mix of liberalism, realism and pragmatism. We then show Vitoria and Kant to be representatives of "the right before the good." Although there are clear tensions between the two on the question of secularism, both offer a vision of cosmopolitanism derived from a universalist morality. Finally, we show that Montaigne, Diderot, Burke and Rousseau are representatives of the normatively "thick good before the right." This group presents a powerful argument for pluralism and tolerance. Categorizing thinkers along these lines has several advantages; above all, it brings out certain tensions within liberalism. This approach reveals significant differences along six dimensions according to (1) what constitutes a valid ethos, domestically and internationally; (2) which concerns drive politics; (3) the character of law; (4) the permeability of political boundaries; (5) the grounds of a peaceful coexistence and (6) the nature of the international system. This analysis reveals tension between the demands of sovereignty, universalism and community.

Keywords: security, universalism, community, thick, thin, Hobbes, Montesquieu, Hume, Smith, Vitoria, Kant, Montaigne, Diderot, Burke, Rousseau, Sovereignty

Suggested Citation

Mohanty, Peter and Gregg, Benjamin, Security, Universalism and Community as Conflicting Priorities in Early Modern Polictical Theory about International Relations: Three Visions of Peaceful Coexistence (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1448941

Peter Mohanty (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin, Dept of Government ( email )

College of Liberal Arts
1 University Station A1800
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Benjamin Gregg

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Government ( email )

College of Liberal Arts
1 University Station A1800
Austin, TX 78712
United States

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