CHARLES RENOUVIER AND THE 'CONSERVATIVE REPUBLIC' IN FRANCE, 1872-9

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Abstract:

This article examines the arguments used by the French philosopher Charles Renouvier to support the notion of a 'conservative Republic' during the formative years of the French Third Republic. After documenting Renouvier's accommodation to the linking of conservatism and republicanism and his defence of opportunism, the author argues that while this accommodation was motivated by his determination to help consolidate the new Republic, it was nevertheless consistent with Renouvier's moral and political philosophy with its focus on liberty, equality and individual rights, particularly the 'right of defence' in the 'state of war'. Moreover, in applying this philosophy to the politics of the 1870s, Renouvier elaborated an original theory of republican governance which differed in a number of fundamental respects from the support for republicanism provided by the majority of Renouvier's contemporaries. The article concludes with some observations on the relevance of Renouvier's political thought during this period to modern political philosophy.
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