Week 4-1 - A Tale of Two Publics

Week 4-1 - A Tale of Two Publics - HWC205: Western...

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HWC205: Western Civilization II Week 4, Lecture 1: A Tale of Two Publics Political Patriarchy Although royal absolutism took advantage of practical scientific advances, few monarchs were willing to expose their political supremacy to rational inquiry --they appropriated elements of technological modernity for what seemed liked premodern ends –the creation of a culture of science nevertheless made it possible to ask whether or not the natural laws that governed motion also governed society –the English Civil War of the 1640s was the occasion for many critiques of the foundation of political legitimacy, and in many respects this culminated with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 –17th century thinking about civil society often challenged the patriarchal foundation of royal absolutism (but not the patriarchal foundations of the family) Robert Filmer (England), Bishop Bossuet (France) --outspoken advocates of patriarchy and divine right –Filmer argued that since God conferred upon Adam fatherly dominion over the earth, all fathers thus exercise a natural authority over their families –he conceived of the King as the father of the country, whose dominion of his subjects is analogous to that of father over his children and wife --no private/public distinction in politics --the main French defender of royal absolutism was Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet --as Bossuet claimed, “God is infinite, God is all. The prince, as prince, is not regarded as a private person: he is a public personage, all the state is in him; the will of all the people is included in his. As all perfection and all strength are united in God, so all the power of individuals is united in the person of the prince. What grandeur that a single man should embody so much!” --the King is the only truly "public" figure; all others are women or children in relation to him --as King Louis XIV claimed, “l’état c’est moi” --an attack upon the state is conceived as an attack upon the body of the king –views such as these had predominated in early modern political theory, though some began to challenge it during the English Civil War of the 1640s --those wishing to contest such visions had first to undermine the entire notion of political patriarchy –much in line with the emerging scientific search for natural laws, social thinking too sought to ground itself in rational arguments --patriarchy had to be revealed as an unnatural extension of the father into the public sphere --thus, one must determine the "natural" state of humans The court society of the absolutist monarchy was an exclusive circle centered around the king --as the only “public” person, the king was constantly on display (no right to “privacy”) –with Louis XIV this court society grew even more elaborate, with nobles vying with each other for access to the king --Louis orchestrated this at the palace of Versailles, the refurbished hunting lodge that was transformed into the center of power in France
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Week 4-1 - A Tale of Two Publics - HWC205: Western...

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