Cesare Cuttica : « Democracy in Early Modern England. A Challenge Then and a Challenge Now » (17/10)

Cesare Cuttica (Paris 8), présentera sa communication « Democracy in Early Modern England. A Challenge Then and a Challenge Now » le jeudi 17 octobre 2019 de 17h à 18h30. Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e, salle D421
 Churchill once famously declared: “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. This was not true for the great majority of thinkers who wrote about politics in the early modern period. In fact, deep mistrust of popular rule that had originated in ancient Greece, and had persisted through to the Roman epoch into the Middle Ages, found fertile ground in early modern England. Yet the observation that since democracy back then did not exist, pre-nineteenth-century criticisms of it are not worth exploring has led the historiographical mainstream to neglect some major questions: why was this so? How was such widespread criticism of popular government articulated? In what ways did different authors and genres depict the people and their power? Which political concerns, social prejudices and clusters of values informed this anti-democratic paradigm? What was democracy actually thought to stand for?
In order to address these points my talk analyses how anti-democratic ideas were elaborated in various sources in the late Tudor and early Stuart reigns. In particular, it offers a panoramic view onto the variegated landscape of anti-democratic thought to show the remarkable continuity informing its rhetoric. My presentation also reveals how political and religious discourse(s) as well as events were defined by concerns surrounding democracy – not republicanism: so much so that we can speak of democracy as an omnipresent challenge at a plurality of levels in early modern English public life. Inevitably selective, my approach provides a hopefully innovative illustration of an important but overlooked topic as well as an examination of the long-term relevance of principles that are still much debated today.
Cesare Cuttica est Maître de conférences en civilisation britannique au Département d’Études des Pays Anglophones de l’Université Paris 8 et membre de l’E.A. 1569 Transferts critiques anglophones (TransCrit).