• The State: Spinoza's Institutional Turn

    Author(s):
    Sandra Field (see profile)
    Date:
    2015
    Group(s):
    Philosophy
    Subject(s):
    History of modern philosophy, Political philosophy
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Tag(s):
    Absolutism, Multitude, Radical Democracy, Spinoza, The state
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6SM27
    Abstract:
    The concept of imperium is central to Spinoza's political philosophy. Imperium denotes authority to rule, or sovereignty. By extension, it also denotes the political order structured by that sovereignty, or in other words, the state. Spinoza argues that reason recommends that we live in a state, and indeed, humans are hardly ever outside a state. But what is the source and scope of the sovereignty under which we live? In some sense, it is linked to popular power, but how precisely, and how is this popular grounding to be reconciled with the absolutist elements in Spinoza's texts? Against prominent liberal and radical democratic interpretations, I argue that Spinoza's insistence on linking imperium to the power of the people amounts to a normative attitude towards politics in which the formal features of a political system are less significant than the concrete everyday functioning of that system. Furthermore, I argue that its good functioning is importantly a product of an institutional order which does not simply defer to human individuality or to the primordial multitude, but instead, actively shapes them. While it may be worthwhile railing against monarchy and aristocracy and demanding liberal or radical democracy, the prior and more important challenge is to increase the robustness and resilience of the multitude within whatever form of state presents itself, through boring, meticulous, and incremental institutional design. For Spinoza, it is a robust and resilient political order that truly merits being called absolute.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Book chapter
    Author/Editor:
    Andre Santos Campos
    Book Title:
    Spinoza: Basic Concepts
    Chapter:
    13
    Start Page:
    142
    End Page:
    154
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    3 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved

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