The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition

By J. G. A. Pocock | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
THE ANGLICIZATION OF THE REPUBLIC
B) Court, Country and Standing Army

[I]

IN THE TWO PRECEDING CHAPTERS we have examined the emergence and establishment of civic and Machiavellian modes of understanding politics in the language and thought of Stuart and Puritan England. The conceptual universe which obtained there was very different from that of Florence, and we had to go a long way about to understand why it became necessary to envisage England as a classical republic at all; but it may still be described as the same universe, dominated by the same paradigms, as those employed in constructing the model which has guided this book. The world of particular events was ill understood and regarded as a consequence of human irrationality, a zone of secular instability which it was the business of politics to control (if it was not the sin of politics to have created it); and the paradigms of custom, grace, and fortune provided the vocabularies available for guiding the intellect through the dangerous paths of historical existence. When civil war afflicted a monarchy which had been considered a representation of eternal order, we encountered one group of thinkers (to which Hobbes in a sense belonged) prepared to isolate a timeless “moment of nature,” and out of it to reconstitute authority as a rigorously natural phenomenon; but the heterogeneous arguments of Nedham, and the paradoxical relationship discovered between Hobbes and Harrington, showed us the appeal to nature and authority coexisting closely with an appeal to fortune, anakuklösis, and the republic, and this latter with a further appeal to grace, illumination, and apocalypse. It can be contended, therefore, that down to the exhaustion of the Puritan radical impulses, English political thought continued to face the challenge of the epistemology of the saeculum, and that the vision of England as a classical republic was constructed as a means of meeting that challenge, in the terms in which the languages familiar to us both posed it and recommended its solution.

During the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, however, Western political and social thought passed from its post-medieval to

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