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A headless body politic?: Augustine's understanding of a Populus and its representation

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Abstract:

The argument consists of two main parts. First, it is shown that Augustine understood a people (populus) as a natural entity that is neither completely depraved (the city of Man) nor saintly (the city of God). While Augustine considered the city of God the true republic, he conceded that political bodies approximated its true justice and that they too deserve to be considered republics. This understanding is implicit in his reformulation of Cicero's definition of a people, and his reformulation maintains the classical concept of political friendship. Second, for Augustine, a people can articulate itself through a republican mode. Neither a monarchy nor a pure democracy, Augustine understood a republic to include the functions of governors and governed (possibly being traded among different individuals), which means that a republic possesses democratic, aristocratic and monarchic parts. Augustine accounts for the monarchic part in his analysis of what in Rome was called the dictator, the office taken up by someone without formal political power and used to save the republic in crisis situations.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Research Unit for the Study of Civil Society, University of Calgary, Dept. of Political Science, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada.

Publication date: April 1, 1999

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