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The limits of neo-Roman liberty

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While writers of the English Civil War abstracted from Roman sources a theory of liberty, the original res publica, always under the control of a unified and entrenched oligarchy, presents a threadbare fabric of liberty. Yet an impressive strand of modern republicanism follows this example: Philip Pettit's 'liberty as non-domination' appears to be inimical to notions of government power, overlooking that power is sometimes necessary to protect freedoms. Quentin Skinner sharpens this classical focus on a 'neo-Roman' theory. In Pettit a republican suspicion of popular government underplays contributions to the history of freedom from the Athenian democracy.

Keywords: Athens; Cicero; Pettit; Roman Republic; Skinner; democracy; liberty; republicanism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Social Science, The University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia. Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2002


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