Montesquieu: Critique of republicanism?

The singular position of Montesquieu's political philosophy seems to raise the question: Isn't the opposition between republicanism and liberalism a largely artificial one? On the one hand, the description of the republican vivere civile in the Spirit of the Laws testifies to the important ties that exist between Montesquieu and the tradition of ?civic humanism?. However, this apparent theoretical proximity between Montesquieu and the British Neo-Harringtonians ought not to be taken too far, obscuring the deep divergences that differentiate their respective positions, notably when it comes to the interpretation of history. Montesquieu's break from the republican tradition is exemplified by his rejection of its conception of freedom rooted in the citizens' necessary participation in power. But in the end, this does not enable us to conclude that he subscribes to a purely liberal theory. The British model shows that even if direct participation in the exercise of power is not necessary for the existence of liberty, a certain level of civic involvement and public awareness is needed. The liberal opposition between positive and negative liberty, political autonomy and enjoyment of rights without interference must therefore be transcended
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DOI 10.1080/13698230510001702663
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