Republicanism is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state organized as a republic. Historically, it ranges from the rule of a class of wealthy and powerful minority or oligarchy to popular sovereignty. It has had different definitions and interpretations which vary significantly based on historical context and methodological approach.
Republicanism may also refer to the non-ideological scientific approach to politics and governance. As the republican thinker and second president of the United States John Adams stated in the introduction to his famous Defense of the Constitution, the "science of politics is the science of social happiness" and a republic is the form of government arrived at when the science of politics is appropriately applied to the creation of a rationally designed government. Rather than being ideological, this approach focuses on applying a scientific methodology to the problems of governance through the rigorous study and application of past experience and experimentation in governance. This is the approach that may best be described to apply to republican thinkers such as Niccolò Machiavelli, John Adams, and James Madison.
The word "republic" derives from the Latin noun-phrase res publica, which referred to the system of government that emerged in the 6th century BCE following the expulsion of the kings from Rome by Lucius Junius Brutus and Collatinus.
This form of government in the Roman state collapsed in the latter part of the 1st century B.C., giving way to what was a monarchy in form, if not in name. Republics recurred subsequently, with, for example, Renaissance Florence or early modern Britain. The concept of a republic became a powerful force in Britain's North American colonies, where it contributed to the American Revolution. In Europe, it gained enormous influence through the French Revolution and through the First French Republic of 1792–1804.
Historical development of republicanism
Classical antecedentsclassical republicanism. Traditionally, the Greek concept of "politeia" was rendered into Latin as res publica. Consequently, political theory until relatively recently often used republic in the general sense of "regime". There is no single written expression or definition from this era that exactly corresponds with a modern understanding of the term "republic" but most of the essential features of the modern definition are present in the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Polybius. These include theories of mixed government and of civic virtue. For example, in The Republic, Plato places great emphasis on the importance of civic virtue together with personal virtue on the part of the ideal rulers. Indeed, in Book V, Plato asserts that until rulers have the nature of philosophers or philosophers become the rulers, there can be no civic peace or happiness.
A number of Ancient Greek city-states such as Athens and Sparta have been classified as "classical republics", because they featured extensive participation by the citizens in legislation and political decision-making. Aristotle considered Carthage to have been a republic as it had a political system similar to that of some of the Greek cities, notably Sparta, but avoided some of the defects that affected them.
Ancient RomeBoth Livy, a Roman historian, and Plutarch, who is noted for his biographies and moral essays, described how Rome had developed its legislation, notably the transition from a kingdom to a republic, by following the example of the Greeks. Some of this history, composed more than 500 years after the events, with scant written sources to rely on, may be fictitious reconstruction.
The Greek historian Polybius, writing in the mid-2nd century BCE, emphasized the role played by the Roman Republic as an institutional form in the dramatic rise of Rome's hegemony over the Mediterranean. In his writing on the constitution of the Roman Republic, Polybius described the system as being a "mixed" form of government. Specifically, Polybius described the Roman system as a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy with the Roman Republic constituted in such a manner that it applied the strengths of each system to offset the weaknesses of the others. In his view, the mixed system of the Roman Republic provided the Romans with a much greater level of domestic tranquility than would have been experienced under another form of government. Furthermore, Polybius argued, the comparative level of domestic tranquility the Romans enjoyed allowed them to conquer the Mediterranean. Polybius exerted a great influence on Cicero as he wrote his politico-philosophical works in the 1st century BCE. In one of these works, De re publica, Cicero linked the Roman concept of res publica to the Greek politeia.
The modern term "republic", despite its derivation, is not synonymous with the Roman res publica. Among the several meanings of the term res publica, it is most often translated "republic" where the Latin expression refers to the Roman state, and its form of government, between the era of the Kings and the era of the Emperors. This Roman Republic would, by a modern understanding of the word, still be defined as a true republic, even if not coinciding entirely. Thus, Enlightenment philosophers saw the Roman Republic as an ideal system because it included features like a systematic separation of powers.
Romans still called their state "Res Publica" in the era of the early emperors because, on the surface, the organization of the state had been preserved by the first emperors without significant alteration. Several offices from the Republican era, held by individuals, were combined under the control of a single person. These changes became permanent, and gradually conferred sovereignty on the Emperor.
Cicero's description of the ideal state, in De re Publica, does not equate to a modern-day "republic"; it is more like enlightened absolutism. His philosophical works were influential when Enlightenment philosophers such as Voltaire developed their political concepts.
In its classical meaning, a republic was any stable well-governed political community. Both Plato and Aristotle identified three forms of government: democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. First Plato and Aristotle, and then Polybius and Cicero, held that the ideal republic is a mixture of these three forms of government. The writers of the Renaissance embraced this notion.
Cicero expressed reservations concerning the republican form of government. While in his theoretical works he defended monarchy, or at least a mixed monarchy/oligarchy, in his own political life, he generally opposed men, like Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Octavian, who were trying to realise such ideals. Eventually, that opposition led to his death and Cicero can be seen as a victim of his own Republican ideals.
Tacitus, a contemporary of Plutarch, was not concerned with whether a form of government could be analyzed as a "republic" or a "monarchy". He analyzed how the powers accumulated by the early Julio-Claudian dynasty were all given by a State that was still notionally a republic. Nor was the Roman Republic "forced" to give away these powers: it did so freely and reasonably, certainly in Augustus' case, because of his many services to the state, freeing it from civil wars and disorder.
Tacitus was one of the first to ask whether such powers were given to the head of state because the citizens wanted to give them, or whether they were given for other reasons. The latter case led more easily to abuses of power. In Tacitus' opinion, the trend away from a true republic was irreversible only when Tiberius established power, shortly after Augustus' death in 14 CE. By this time, too many principles defining some powers as "untouchable" had been implemented.
Renaissance republicanismIn Europe, republicanism was revived in the late Middle Ages when a number of states, which arose from medieval communes, embraced a republican system of government. These were generally small but wealthy trading states in which the merchant class had risen to prominence. Haakonssen notes that by the Renaissance, Europe was divided, such that those states controlled by a landed elite were monarchies, and those controlled by a commercial elite were republics. The latter included the Italian city-states of Florence, Genoa, and Venice and members of the Hanseatic League. One notable exception was Dithmarschen, a group of largely autonomous villages, who confederated in a peasants' republic. Building upon concepts of medieval feudalism, Renaissance scholars used the ideas of the ancient world to advance their view of an ideal government. Thus the republicanism developed during the Renaissance is known as 'classical republicanism' because it relied on classical models. This terminology was developed by Zera Fink in the 1960s, but some modern scholars, such as Brugger, consider it confuses the "classical republic" with the system of government used in the ancient world. 'Early modern republicanism' has been proposed as an alternative term. It is also sometimes called civic humanism. Beyond simply a non-monarchy, early modern thinkers conceived of an ideal republic, in which mixed government was an important element, and the notion that virtue and the common good were central to good government. Republicanism also developed its own distinct view of liberty.
Renaissance authors who spoke highly of republics were rarely critical of monarchies. While Niccolò Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy is the period's key work on republics, he also wrote the treatise The Prince, which is better remembered and more widely read, on how best to run a monarchy. The early modern writers did not see the republican model as universally applicable; most thought that it could be successful only in very small and highly urbanized city-states. Jean Bodin in Six Books of the Commonwealth identified monarchy with republic.
Classical writers like Tacitus, and Renaissance writers like Machiavelli tried to avoid an outspoken preference for one government system or another. Enlightenment philosophers, on the other hand, expressed a clear opinion. Thomas More, writing before the Age of Enlightenment, was too outspoken for the reigning king's taste, even though he coded his political preferences in a utopian allegory.
In England a type of republicanism evolved that was not wholly opposed to monarchy; thinkers such as Thomas More and Sir Thomas Smith saw a monarchy, firmly constrained by law, as compatible with republicanism.Eighty Years' War, which began in 1568. This anti-monarchism was more propaganda than a political philosophy; most of the anti-monarchist works appeared in the form of widely distributed pamphlets. This evolved into a systematic critique of monarchy, written by men such as the brothers Johan and Peter de la Court. They saw all monarchies as illegitimate tyrannies that were inherently corrupt. These authors were more concerned with preventing the position of Stadholder from evolving into a monarchy, than with attacking their former rulers. Dutch republicanism also influenced on French Huguenots during the Wars of Religion. In the other states of early modern Europe republicanism was more moderate.Commonwealth of Two Nations, republicans supported the status quo, of having a very weak monarch, and opposed those who thought a stronger monarchy was needed. These mostly Polish republicans, such as Łukasz Górnicki, Andrzej Wolan, and Stanisław Konarski, were well read in classical and Renaissance texts and firmly believed that their state was a republic on the Roman model, and started to call their state the Rzeczpospolita. Atypically, Polish–Lithuanian republicanism was not the ideology of the commercial class, but rather of the landed nobility, which would lose power if the monarchy were expanded. This resulted in an oligarchy of the great landed magnates.
Enlightenment republicanismSpanish empire and Kingdom of France which left it open to the ideas of the Italian Renaissance, Spanish humanism and French Enlightenment; and a geo-political position between these three competing powers which led to frequent power vacuums in which new regimes could be set up, testing out the fashionable new ideas of the age.
From the 1720s the island had been experiencing a series of short-lived but ongoing rebellions against its current sovereign, the Italian city-state of Genoa. During the initial period these merely sought to restore the control of the Spanish Empire; when this proved impossible, an independent Kingdom of Corsica was proclaimed, following the Enlightenment ideal of a written constitutional monarchy. But the perception grew that the monarchy had colluded with the invading power, a more radical group of reformers led by the Pasquale Paoli pushed for political overhaul, in the form of a constitutional and parliamentary republic inspired by the popular ideas of the Enlightenment.
Its governing philosophy was both inspired by the prominent thinkers of the day, notably the French philosophers Montesquieu and Voltaire and the Swiss theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Not only did it include a permanent national parliament with fixed-term legislatures and regular elections, but, more radically for the time, it introduced universal male suffrage, and it is thought to be the first constitution in the world to grant women the right to vote female suffrage may also have existed. It also extended Enlightened principles to other spheres, including administrative reform, the foundation of a national university at Corte, and the establishment of a popular standing army.
The Corsican Republic lasted for fifteen years, from 1755 to 1769, eventually falling to a combination of Genoese and French forces and was incorporated as a province of the Kingdom of France. But the episode resonated across Europe as an early example of Enlightened constitutional republicanism, with many of the most prominent political commentators of the day recognising it to be an experiment in a new type of popular and democratic government. Its influence was particularly notable among the French Enlightenment philosophers: Rousseau's famous work On the Social Contract declared, in its discussion on the conditions necessary for a functional popular sovereignty, that "There is still one European country capable of making its own laws: the island of Corsica. valour and persistency with which that brave people has regained and defended its liberty well deserves that some wise man should teach it how to preserve what it has won. I have a feeling that some day that little island will astonish Europe."; indeed Rousseau volunteered to do precisely that, offering a draft constitution for Paoli'se use. Similarly, Voltaire affirmed in his Précis du siècle de Louis XV that "Bravery may be found in many places, but such bravery only among free peoples". But the influence of the Corsican Republic as an example of a sovereign people fighting for liberty and enshrining this constitutionally in the form of an Enlightened republic was even greater among the Radicals of Great Britain and North America, where it was popularised via An Account of Corsica, by the Scottish essayist James Boswell. The Corsican Republic went on to influence the American revolutionaries ten years later: the Sons of Liberty, initiators of the American Revolution, would declare Pascal Paoli to be a direct inspiration for their own struggle against despotism; the son of Ebenezer Mackintosh was named Pascal Paoli Mackintosh in his honour, and no fewer than five American counties are named Paoli for the same reason.
Englandset up a republic called the Commonwealth of England which he ruled after the overthrow of King Charles I. James Harrington was then a leading philosopher of republicanism. John Milton was another important Republican thinker at this time, expressing his views in political tracts as well as through poetry and prose. In his epic poem Paradise Lost, for instance, Milton uses Satan's fall to suggest that unfit monarchs should be brought to justice, and that such issues extend beyond the constraints of one nation. As Christopher N. Warren argues, Milton offers “a language to critique imperialism, to question the legitimacy of dictators, to defend free international discourse, to fight unjust property relations, and to forge new political bonds across national lines.” This form of international Miltonic republicanism has been influential on later thinkers including 19th-century radicals Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, according to Warren and other historians.
The collapse of the Commonwealth of England in 1660 and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II discredited republicanism among England's ruling circles. Nevertheless, they welcomed the liberalism, and emphasis on rights, of John Locke, which played a major role in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Even so, republicanism flourished in the "country" party of the early 18th century, which denounced the corruption of the "court" party, producing a political theory that heavily influenced the American colonists. In general, the English ruling classes of the 18th century vehemently opposed republicanism, typified by the attacks on John Wilkes, and especially on the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
French and Swiss thoughtFrench and Swiss Enlightenment thinkers, such as Baron Charles de Montesquieu and later Jean-Jacques Rousseau, expanded upon and altered the ideas of what an ideal republic should be: some of their new ideas were scarcely traceable to antiquity or the Renaissance thinkers. Concepts they contributed, or heavily elaborated, were social contract, positive law, and mixed government. They also borrowed from, and distinguished republicanism from, the ideas of liberalism that were developing at the same time.
Liberalism and republicanism were frequently conflated during this period, because they both opposed absolute monarchy. Modern scholars see them as two distinct streams that both contributed to the democratic ideals of the modern world. An important distinction is that, while republicanism stressed the importance of civic virtue and the common good, liberalism was based on economics and individualism. It is clearest in the matter of private property, which, according to some, can be maintained only under the protection of established positive law.
Jules Ferry, Prime Minister of France from 1880 to 1885, followed both these schools of thought. He eventually enacted the Ferry Laws, which he intended to overturn the Falloux Laws by embracing the anti-clerical thinking of the Philosophs. These laws ended the Catholic Church's involvement in many government institutions in late 19th-century France, including schools.
Republicanism in the Thirteen British Colonies in North AmericaIn recent years a debate has developed over the role of republicanism in the American Revolution and in the British radicalism of the 18th century. For many decades the consensus was that liberalism, especially that of John Locke, was paramount and that republicanism had a distinctly secondary role.
The new interpretations were pioneered by J.G.A. Pocock, who argued in The Machiavellian Moment that, at least in the early 18th century, republican ideas were just as important as liberal ones. Pocock's view is now widely accepted. Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood pioneered the argument that the American founding fathers were more influenced by republicanism than they were by liberalism. Cornell University professor Isaac Kramnick, on the other hand, argues that Americans have always been highly individualistic and therefore Lockean. Joyce Appleby has argued similarly for the Lockean influence on America.
In the decades before the American Revolution, the intellectual and political leaders of the colonies studied history intently, looking for models of good government. They especially followed the development of republican ideas in England. Pocock explained the intellectual sources in America:
The Whig canon and the neo-Harringtonians, John Milton, James Harrington and Sidney, Trenchard, Gordon and Bolingbroke, together with the Greek, Roman, and Renaissance masters of the tradition as far as Montesquieu, formed the authoritative literature of this culture; and its values and concepts were those with which we have grown familiar: a civic and patriot ideal in which the personality was founded in property, perfected in citizenship but perpetually threatened by corruption; government figuring paradoxically as the principal source of corruption and operating through such means as patronage, faction, standing armies, established churches and the promotion of a monied interest – though the formulation of this last concept was somewhat hindered by the keen desire for readily available paper credit common in colonies of settlement. A neoclassical politics provided both the ethos of the elites and the rhetoric of the upwardly mobile, and accounts for the singular cultural and intellectual homogeneity of the Founding Fathers and their generation.
The commitment of most Americans to these republican values made the American Revolution inevitable. Britain was increasingly seen as corrupt and hostile to republicanism, and as a threat to the established liberties the Americans enjoyed.
Leopold von Ranke in 1848 claimed that American republicanism played a crucial role in the development of European liberalism:
By abandoning English constitutionalism and creating a new republic based on the rights of the individual, the North Americans introduced a new force in the world. Ideas spread most rapidly when they have found adequate concrete expression. Thus republicanism entered our Romanic/Germanic world.... Up to this point, the conviction had prevailed in Europe that monarchy best served the interests of the nation. Now the idea spread that the nation should govern itself. But only after a state had actually been formed on the basis of the theory of representation did the full significance of this idea become clear. All later revolutionary movements have this same goal... This was the complete reversal of a principle. Until then, a king who ruled by the grace of God had been the center around which everything turned. Now the idea emerged that power should come from below.... These two principles are like two opposite poles, and it is the conflict between them that determines the course of the modern world. In Europe the conflict between them had not yet taken on concrete form; with the French Revolution it did.
''Républicanisme''Republicanism, especially that of Rousseau, played a central role in the French Revolution and foreshadowed modern republicanism. The revolutionaries, after overthrowing the French monarchy in the 1790s, began by setting up a republic; Napoleon converted it into an Empire with a new aristocracy. In the 1830s Belgium adopted some of the innovations of the progressive political philosophers of the Enlightenment.
Républicanisme is a French version of modern republicanism. It is a form of social contract, deduced from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's idea of a general will. Ideally, each citizen is engaged in a direct relationship with the state, removing the need for identity politics based on local, religious, or racial identification.
Républicanisme, in theory, makes anti-discrimination laws unnecessary, but some critics argue that colour-blind laws serve to perpetuate discrimination.
Republicanism in IrelandInspired by the American and French Revolutions, the Society of United Irishmen was founded in 1791 in Belfast and Dublin. The inaugural meeting of the United Irishmen in Belfast on 18 October 1791 approved a declaration of the society's objectives. It identified the central grievance that Ireland had no national government: "...we are ruled by Englishmen, and the servants of Englishmen, whose object is the interest of another country, whose instrument is corruption, and whose strength is the weakness of Ireland..." They adopted three central positions: to seek out a cordial union among all the people of Ireland, to maintain that balance essential to preserve liberties and extend commerce; that the sole constitutional mode by which English influence can be opposed, is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in Parliament; that no reform is practicable or efficacious, or just which shall not include Irishmen of every religious persuasion. The declaration, then, urged constitutional reform, union among Irish people and the removal of all religious disqualifications.
The event that above all influenced men's thoughts at that time was the French Revolution. Public interest, already strongly aroused, was brought to a pitch by the publication in 1790 of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Thomas Paine's response, Rights of Man, in February 1791. Theobald Wolfe Tone wrote later that, "This controversy, and the gigantic event which gave rise to it, changed in an instant the politics of Ireland." Paine himself was aware of this commenting on sales of Part I of Rights of Man in November 1791, only eight months after publication of the first edition, he informed a friend that in England "almost sixteen thousand has gone off – and in Ireland above forty thousand". Paine my have been inclined to talk up sales of his works but what is striking in this context is that Paine believed that Irish sales were so far ahead of English ones before Part II had appeared. On 5 June 1792, Thomas Paine, author of the Rights of Man was proposed for honorary membership of the Dublin Society of the United Irishmen.
The fall of the Bastille was to be celebrated in Belfast on 14 July 1791 by a Volunteer meeting. At the request of Thomas Russell, Tone drafted suitable resolutions for the occasion, including one favouring the inclusion of Catholics in any reforms. In a covering letter to Russell, Tone wrote, "I have not said one word that looks like a wish for separation, though I give it to you and your friends as my most decided opinion that such an event would be a regeneration of their country". By 1795, Tone's Republicanism and that of the society had openly crystallized when he tells us: "I remember particularly two days thae we passed on Cave Hill. On the first Russell, Neilson, Simms, McCracken and one or two more of us, on the summit of McArt's fort, took a solemn obligation...never to desist in our efforts until we had subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted her independence."
The culmination was an uprising against British rule in Ireland lasting from May to September 1798 – the Irish Rebellion of 1798 – with military support from revolutionary France in August and again October 1798. After the failure of the rising of 1798 the United Irishman, John Daly Burk, an émigré in the United States in his The History of the Late War in Ireland written in 1799, was most emphatic in its identification of the Irish, French and American causes.
Modern republicanismDuring the Enlightenment, anti-monarchism extended beyond the civic humanism of the Renaissance. Classical republicanism, still supported by philosophers such as Rousseau and Montesquieu, was only one of several theories seeking to limit the power of monarchies rather than directly opposing them. New forms of anti-monarchism, such as liberalism and later socialism, quickly overtook classical republicanism as the leading ideologies. Republicanism gained support, and monarchies were challenged throughout Europe.
FranceThe French version of Republicanism after 1870 was called "Radicalism"; it became the Radical Party, a major political party. In Western Europe, there were similar smaller "radical" parties. They all supported a constitutional republic and universal suffrage, while European liberals were at the time in favor of constitutional monarchy and census suffrage. Most radical parties later favored economic liberalism and capitalism. This distinction between radicalism and liberalism had not totally disappeared in the 20th century, although many radicals simply joined liberal parties. For example, the Radical Party of the Left in France or the Transnational Radical Party, which still exist, focus more on republicanism than on simple liberalism.
Liberalism, was represented in France by the Orleanists who rallied to the Third Republic only in the late 19th century, after the comte de Chambord's 1883 death and the 1891 papal encyclical Rerum novarum.
But the early Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party in France, and Chartism in Britain, were closer to republicanism. Radicalism remained close to republicanism in the 20th century, at least in France, where they governed several times with other parties.
Discredited after the Second World War, French radicals split into a left-wing party – the Radical Party of the Left, an associate of the Socialist Party – and the Radical Party "valoisien", an associate party of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement and its Gaullist predecessors. Italian radicals also maintained close links with republicanism, as well as with socialism, with the Partito radicale founded in 1955, which became the Transnational Radical Party in 1989.
Increasingly, after the fall of communism in 1989 and the collapse of the Marxist interpretation of the French Revolution, France increasingly turned to Republicanism to define its national identity. Charles de Gaulle, presenting himself as the military savior of France in the 1940s, and the political savior in the 1950s, refashioned the meaning of Republicanism. Both left and right enshrined him in the Republican pantheon.
United StatesRepublicanism became the dominant political value of Americans during and after the American Revolution. The "Founding Fathers" were strong advocates of republican values, especially Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. However, in 1854, social movements started to harness values of abolitionism and These burgeoning radical traditions in America became epitomized in the early formation of the Republican Party, known as "red republicanism." The efforts were primarily led by political leaders such as Alvan E. Bovay, Thaddeus Stevens, and Abraham Lincoln.
The British Empire and the Commonwealth of NationsIn some countries of the British Empire, later the Commonwealth of Nations, republicanism has taken a variety of forms.
In Barbados, the government gave the promise of a referendum on becoming a republic in August 2008, but it was postponed due to the change of government in the 2008 election.
In South Africa, republicanism in the 1960s was identified with the supporters of apartheid, who resented British interference in their treatment of the country's black population.Malcolm Turnbull was a leading proponent of an Australian republic prior to joining the centre-right Liberal Party, and led the pro-republic campaign during the failed 1999 Australian republic referendum. After becoming Prime Minister in 2015, he confirmed he still supports a republic, but stated that the issue should wait until after the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The centre-left Labor Party officially supports the abolition of the monarchy and another referendum on the issue.
BarbadosOn 22 March 2015, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced that Barbados will move towards a republican form of government "in the very near future".
Jamaica, the current Prime Minister of Jamaica, has announced that his government intends to begin the process of transitioning to a republic.
The NetherlandsThe Netherlands have known two republican periods: the Dutch Republic that gained independence from the Spanish Empire during the Eighty Years' War, followed by the Batavian Republic that after conquest by the French First Republic had been established as a Sister Republic. After Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French, he made his brother Louis Bonaparte King of Holland, then annexed the Netherlands into the French First Empire until he was defeated at the Battle of Leipzig. Thereafter the Sovereign Principality of the United Netherlands was established, granting the Orange-Nassau family, who during the Dutch Republic had only been stadtholders, a princely title over the Netherlands, and soon William Frederick even crowned himself King of the Netherlands. His rather autocratic tendencies in spite of the principles of constitutional monarchy met increasing resistance from Parliament and the population, which eventually limited the monarchy's power and democratised the government, most notably through the Constitutional Reform of 1848. Since the late 19th century, republicanism has had various degrees of support in society, which the royal house generally dealt with by gradually letting go of its formal influence in politics and taking on a more ceremonial and symbolic role. Nowadays, popularity of the monarchy is high, but there is a significant republican minority that strives to abolish the monarchy altogether.
NorwayIn the period around and after the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905, an opposition to the monarchy grew in Norway, and republican movements and thoughts continues to exist to this day.
SwedenIn Sweden, a major promoter of republicanism is the Swedish Republican Association, which advocates for a democratic ending to the Monarchy of Sweden.First Spanish Republic and the Second Spanish Republic. Movements such as , Citizens for the Republic in Spanish, have emerged, and parties like United Left and the Republican Left of Catalonia increasingly refer to republicanism. In a survey conducted in 2007 reported that 69% of the population prefer the monarchy to continue, compared with 22% opting for a Republic. In a 2008 survey, 58% of Spanish citizens were indifferent, 16% favored a republic, 16% were monarchists, and 7% claimed they were Juancarlistas. In the last years republicanism has been rising, especially among the young people, with successive surveys in recent years projecting a technical tie between supporters of the monarchy and supporters of the republic.
Neo-republicanismNeorepublicanism is the effort by current scholars to draw on a classical republican tradition in the development of an attractive public philosophy intended for contemporary purposes. With traditional socialism virtually defunct, it emerges as an alternative postsocialist critique of market society from the left.
Prominent theorists in this movement are Philip Pettit and Cass Sunstein, who have each written several works defining republicanism and how it differs from liberalism. Michael Sandel, a late convert to republicanism from communitarianism, advocates replacing or supplementing liberalism with republicanism, as outlined in his Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy.
Contemporary work from a neorepublican include jurist K. Sabeel Rahman's book Democracy Against Domination, which seeks to create a neorepublican framework for economic regulation grounded in the thought of Louis Brandeis and John Dewey and popular control, in contrast to both New Deal-style managerialism and neoliberal deregulation. Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson's Private Government traces the history of republican critiques of private power, arguing that the classical free market policies of the 18th and 19th centuries intended to help workers only lead to their domination by employers. In From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth, political scientist Alex Gourevitch examines a strain of late 19th century American republicanism known as labor republicanism that was the producerist labor union The Knights of Labor, and how republican concepts were used in service of workers rights, but also with a strong critique of the role of that union in supporting the Chinese Exclusion Act.
DemocracyIn the late 18th century there was convergence of democracy and republicanism. Republicanism is a system that replaces or accompanies inherited rule. There is an emphasis on liberty, and a rejection of corruption. It strongly influenced the American Revolution and the French Revolution in the 1770s and 1790s, respectively. Republicans, in these two examples, tended to reject inherited elites and aristocracies, but left open two questions: whether a republic, to restrain unchecked majority rule, should have an unelected upper chamber—perhaps with members appointed as meritorious experts—and whether it should have a constitutional monarch.
Though conceptually separate from democracy, republicanism included the key principles of rule by consent of the governed and sovereignty of the people. In effect, republicanism held that kings and aristocracies were not the real rulers, but rather the whole people were. Exactly how the people were to rule was an issue of democracy: republicanism itself did not specify a means. In the United States, the solution was the creation of political parties that reflected the votes of the people and controlled the government. Many exponents of republicanism, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson were strong promoters of representative democracy. Other supporters of republicanism, such as John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, were more distrustful of majority rule and sought a government with more power for elites. There were similar debates in many other democratizing nations.
Democracy and republicIn contemporary usage, the term democracy refers to a government chosen by the people, whether it is direct or representative. Today the term republic usually refers to representative democracy with an elected head of state, such as a president, who serves for a limited term; in contrast to states with a hereditary monarch as a head of state, even if these states also are representative democracies, with an elected or appointed head of government such as a prime minister.
The Founding Fathers of the United States rarely praised and often criticized democracy, which in their time tended to specifically mean direct democracy and which they equated with mob rule; James Madison argued that what distinguished a democracy from a republic was that the former became weaker as it got larger and suffered more violently from the effects of faction, whereas a republic could get stronger as it got larger and combatted faction by its very structure. What was critical to American values, John Adams insisted, was that the government should be "bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend."
Constitutional monarchs and upper chambersSome countries turned powerful monarchs into constitutional ones with limited, or eventually merely symbolic, powers. Often the monarchy was abolished along with the aristocratic system, whether or not they were replaced with democratic institutions. In Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Papua New Guinea, and some other countries the monarch, or its representative, is given supreme executive power, but by convention acts only on the advice of his or her ministers. Many nations had elite upper houses of legislatures, the members of which often had lifetime tenure, but eventually these houses lost much power, or else became elective and remained powerful.
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