ASTK18127U Republicanism

Volume 2018/2019

Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


This course is an introduction to republicanism in Western political thought. Republicanism is fundamental in both senses of the term. As one of the most ancient theories in political thought it constitutes the foundation of Western societies. It is also one of the essential contemporary theories because it discusses problematics we face acutely today, albeit under different guises: Does security come at the price of liberty? Is violence legitimate and who should exert violence for a republic or in a republic? What is liberty and how can it be maintained? Do virtuous institutions or virtuous political actors produce effective government? What are republican virtues and how to maintain them? Is private wealth the enemy of the commonwealth or its lifeblood? Can a republic thrive on a large territory with a large body of citizens? Are democracy and republicanism compatible? Should citizens be educated and how? Who can/should be a citizen? What are the limits of a republic? Are republican values universal? Are republics more peaceful and stable than tyrannies? Would a world of republics be better than a single universal republic?


This introductory course will present a (subjective) choice of the main views and theories within republicanism in a lively and interactive way. The above questions and many others appeared at different time in Western history. We will see why famous philosophers asked them in the context of their time, and how their answers made sense then and if they still do today. The humanist renaissance established a curriculum based on rhetoric and philosophy for educating students to republican public life, studying Attic and Roman authors. The humanities were thus considered primordial for the good functioning of a state: philosophy to attain truth through critical thinking and morality through questioning choices; rhetoric to instruct how to persuade others of this truth and morality. Without claiming to revive this republican humanist tradition, this introductory course is nonetheless directed primarily at any student considering a career in government or in leading political and social institutions, but also any concerned citizen wishing to be an independent and well-functioning individual in a republic.

Learning Outcome


  • give an account of and take a critical stance towards the various theories and periods of republicanism
  • define and discuss the concepts of liberty and the concepts of republican morality (virtue, duty, etc.)



  • be able to apply republican theory to current events
  • evaluate and put into perspective the various forms of republicanism
  • debate pros and cons of republican ideas



  • independently formulate a republican solution to an economic, legal, and/or ethical problem
  • structure and initiate empirical or theoretical analyses in collaboration with related subject areas

There is a webpage with the reading list and updated information on the course:



Please read for the first session: 

Dagger, Richard (2011). ‘Republicanism’. In The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy Edited by George Klosko. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (12pages)



Laborde, Cécile (2013). ‘Republicanism’. In The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies. Edited by Michael Freeden and Marc Stears. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (25 pages) 



Laborde, Cécile, and John Maynor, ‘The Republican Contribution to Contemporary Political Theory’, ch.1 in Republicanism and Political Theory, pp. 1-28 (28 pages)


Christopher Nadon, “Republicanism: Ancient, Medieval, and Beyond,” in A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, pp. 529-541 (12pages)



The course will include selections from the following works (900-1200 pages).


Historical works:

Adams. A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.


Aristotle. Politics.


Cicero. On the Commonwealth. On the Laws. On Duties.


Constant. Liberty of the Ancients, Liberty of the Moderns.


Guicciardini. On Bringing Order to Popular Government.


Harrington. Oceana.


Fénelon. Telemachus.


De Gouges. Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen.


Machiavelli. Discourses on Livy. The Prince.


Montesquieu. The Spirit of the Laws. Persian Letters.


Paine. The Rights of Man.


Polybius. The Histories.


Rousseau. The Social Contract.


Sallust. Catiline’s Conspiracy.


Trenchard and Gordon. Cato’s Letters.


Wollstonecraft. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.


Contemporary works:

Arendt. On Revolution. ‘What is Freedom?’


Beiner. Civil Religion.


Berlin. Five Essays on Liberty.


Besson and Marti (eds.). Legal Republicanism.


Laborde. Critical Republicanism. Republicanism and Global Justice.


Laborde and Maynor (eds.). Republicanism and Political Theory.


Pettit. Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government.


Pocock. The Machiavellian Moment.


Skinner. Liberty Before Liberalism. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (2 vols).


Wolin. Politics and Vision.

Each session will start with a quick recap of the past one in the form of a quiz. A short presentation of the texts will follow addressing the historical/​cultural/​political/​economic context. The second part of the session will focus on interactive debates on the questions raised in the readings.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)



Individual written feedback on the term paper.

Collective verbal feedback during the course.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner