Jean Bodin on Sovereignty

Most of the books on politics produced in France in the last quarter of the sixteenth century were controversial tracts, without detachment and without philosophical originality. There was one work, however, the Six livres de la république, published by Jean Bodin in 1576, of less ephemeral nature. This book also was occasioned by the civil wars and was written with the avowed purpose of strengthening the king.

But Bodin achieved an unusual aloofness from religious partisanship, and he strove for a philosophical system of political ideas which, however confused he may have been, at least put his book out of the class of controversial literature. In the Republic Bodin set himself no less ambitious task than to do for modern politics what Aristotle had done for ancient, and while the comparison cannot be seriously sustained, the book achieved a great reputation in its day and has been given by all scholars an important place in the history of political thought.

Its importance was less due to its elaborate effort to revive the system of Aristotle than to the fact that it took the idea of sovereign power out of the limbo of theology in which the theory of divine right left it. By so doing it led both to an analysis of sovereignty and to its inclusion in constitutional theory.

Religious Toleration:-

The Republic might be described as a defense of politics against parties. Published only four years after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, it formed the main intellectual production of an already growing body of moderate thinkers, known as the Politiques, who saw in the royal power the mainstay of peace and order and who therefore sought to raise the king, as a center of national unity, above all religious sects and political parties.

In part they represented the swing toward strong government which always comes in a time of disorder, but their position in the sixteenth century was more significant than that. They were among the first who envisaged the possibility of tolerating several religions within a single state.

Though mostly Catholic themselves, they were before everything nationalist, and in their political thinking they were prepared to face the solidest political fact of the age, namely, that the division of Christianity was irreparable and that no single sect could either convince or coerce the others.

The policy which they advocated, accordingly, was to save what might still be saved from the wreck; to permit religious differences which could not be healed and to hold together French nationality even though unity of religion was lost, Such had been the policy of Catharine din Medici’s chancellor L-Hopital at the very opening of the civil wars and such was the general policy of settlement which prevailed under Henry IV.

Sane as this policy was, it seemed irreligious to most men in the sixteenth century; the Politiques were described by one of their enemies as those who preferred the repose of the kingdom or their own homes to the salvation of their souls; who would rather that the kingdom remained at peace without God than at war with him. There was an element of truth in this gibe.

The Politiques certainly commended religious toleration as a policy rather than as a moral principle. They never denied the right of the state to persecute or questioned the advantages of a single religion. But they perceived that religious persecution was in fact ruinous and they condemned it on this utilitarian ground.

In a general way Bodin was related to this group, and he intended by his book to support their policy of toleration, and also to supply a reasoned basis for enlightened policy in respect to many practical questions that arose in a distracted age. But he was emphatically no opportunist. His Republic was intended to supply the principles of order and unity upon which any well-ordered state must rest.

Jean Bodin’s political philosophy was a singular mixture of the old and the new, as all philosophical thought in the sixteenth century was. He had ceased to be medieval without becoming modern. A lawyer by profession, he won the enmity of his fellow lawyers by advocating an historical and comparative study of law, in place of an exclusive devotion to the texts of Roman law.

Both law and politics, he insisted, need to be studied not only in the light of history, but also in the light of men’s physical environment, of climate and topography and race. And yet, mingled with this very modern-sounding suggestion was a firm belief that environment includes the influence of the stars and can be understood in its relation to the history of states by the study of astrology.

A forthright advocate of religious toleration and of liberal and enlightened administration, Bodin was likewise the author of a handbook on sorcery intended to be used by magistrates in the detection and trial of witches. Often critical and incredulous in his analysis of historical sources, he was ready to accept every folk-tale about the diabolical plots of those who have sold themselves to the Devil.

An advocate of policies aimed at the material and economic welfare of the nation and the author of a book that has been called the first modern work on economics, he could still people the physical world with spirits and demons on whose acts the lives of men depend at every turn. A critic of all religious sects so balanced in judgment that no man knew whether he was Protestant or Catholic, and some suspected that he was a Jew or an infidel, he was yet profoundly religious both by temperament and conviction. Bodin’s thought was an amalgamation of superstition, rationalism, mysticism, utilitarianism, and antiquarianism.

A similar confusion exists in his political philosophy. It seems clear that he himself believed that he was following a new method, the secret of which consisted in combining philosophy and history. Philosophy, he says, dies of initiation in the midst of its precepts when it is net vivified by history. He criticized Machiavelli for the omission of philosophy and attributed to this the immoral tendency of his writings.

On the other hand, Bodin had no patience with such utopian policies as he found in Sir Thomas More and in Plato. His ideal was an empirical subject-matter held in a framework of general principles; fact was to give solidarity and reason meaning. This conception of political philosophy he derived from Aristotle, and it must be admitted that Bodin conceived the task more broadly than any other writer of his time.

Unfortunately his accomplishment was not equal to his designs. He had no clearly conceived system by which to order his historical material. The Republic, and indeed his books generally, are unorganized and ill arranged, repetitious and disconnected, though in part he was capable of being clear and cogent.

Moreover, he deluged his reader with historical illustrations, statistics, citations, and expositions of law and institutions drawn from an appalling erudition. The neglect into which his books fell within a century of his death was mainly due to their being intolerably formless and tedious.

Jean Bodin’s power of literary presentation was practically non-existent; his systematic capacity was rather a facility in formal definition than a real power of philosophical construction; and despite a genuine insight into the history and working of institutions, he was an antiquarian rather than a philosophical historian.

The State and the Family:-

Such arrangement as the Republic has was borrowed from Aristotle, though the outline was obscured by almost endless digressions. Jean Bodin first considered the end of the state and then the family, together with marriage, the relation of father and children, private property, and slavery, all of which he regarded as aspects of the family. The opening part, however, revealed at once his weakness in forming a systematic political philosophy. He had no clear theory of the end of the state.

He defined it as a lawful government of several households, and of their common possessions, with sovereign power. The word lawful is said to signify just, or in accordance with the law of nature, and to distinguish the state from a lawless association like a band of robbers. With respect to the end which sovereign power should seek for its subjects, forever, Jean Bodin was very indefinite.

He saw that Aristotle was not a safe guide here, the ends sought by the city-state being impossible in a modern kingdom. Hence, he said, the happiness or goodness of citizens is not a practicable end. Yet he was unwilling to restrict the state to the pursuit of merely material and utilitarian advantages, such as peace and the security of property.

The state has a soul as well as a body and the soul is higher, though the needs of the body are more immediately pressing. In reality Bodin never gave a clear account of these higher ends of the state. The result was a serious deficiency in his system, since he never succeeded in explaining precisely the reasons for the citizen’s obligation to obey the sovereign.

Jean Bodin’s theory of the family is a distinctive part of his work, but it too is hard to relate to the theory of sovereignty. The family-consisting of father, mother, children, and servants, with the common property he regarded as a natural community from which all other societies arise. Following the Roman conception that the state’s jurisdiction ends at the threshold of the house, he seriously proposed reviving the most extreme powers of the pater familias over his dependents, with complete control over the persons, the property, and even the lives of his children.

At the Same time he added to this an excellent refutation both of the right and the utility of slavery. The family forms a natural unit, in which the right of private property inheres, and from it the state and all other communities are formed. The state he defined as a government of households; it is the pater familias who becomes a citizen, when he steps outside the house and acts in concert with other heads of families.

Many associations of families arise for common defense and for the pursuit of mutual advantages-villages, cities, and corporations of various kinds-and when these are united by a sovereign authority, a state is formed. The actual formation of this last combination Bodin attributed as a rule to force, though it was certainly not his opinion that sovereignty, or lawful rule, is justified merely by its power.

in this derivation of the state Bodin’s motive is easier to understand than his logic. He had in his make-up a large measure of Puritanical censoriousness, and the power of the father was meant to be a means of social purification. More important than this, however, was his de. Sire to build an impregnable bulwark to protect private property. Communism, both in the theories of Plato and More and in the supposed practices of the Anabaptist, was an object of repeated criticism with him, and property he regarded as an attribute of the family. The family is the sphere of the private; the state is that of the public or common.

Hence he aimed at a radical separation of the two. Sovereignty he believed to be different in kind from ownership; the prince is in no sense the proprietor of the public domain and; cannot alienate it. Property belongs to the family, sovereignty to the prince and his magistrates. As the theory develops, the right of property inherent in the family puts a definite limit even to the power of the sovereign.

Unfortunately for the clarity of the theory, it is impossible to see on what this inviolable right of the family is based. Jean Bodin’s argument for the power of the father was largely authoritarian, consisting of citations from Scripture and Roman law. For the rest he merely followed Aristotle in arguing that men are the embodiment of reason, as against the more passionate nature of women and the immaturity of children. The right of property he of course considered to be rooted in the law of nature.

Without much exaggeration Bodin might be said to make the possession of property simply a natural right, somewhat after the fashion of Locke, except that it inheres in the family rather than the individual. But to combine an inalienable right in the family with an absolute power in the state made an insuperable logical difficulty.

If it really was Bodin’s purpose to distinguish clearly between the political power of the sovereign and the private rights and powers of the heads of families, he ought to have considered carefully the transition from those spontaneous groupings of families where sovereign power is lacking to the state where it is present.

In point of fact he had no clear theory of this transition, just as he had no clear theory of the ends which the state ought to secure. The family and such groups of families as the village or the city he attributed to the natural needs and desires of men-sexual impulse, the care of offspring, defense, and innate sociability.

The origin of the state he usually attributed to conquest, and yet he was as far as possible from believing that force is self-justifying or that it forms the primary attribute of the state after it is founded. Superior force may make a band of robbers but not a state.

Just what natural needs give rise to the state over and above those supplied by the family and other groups, or why the citizen ought to render obedience to his sovereign, or precisely the nature of the change which transforms a group of families into a true state, he left obscure. The only points that are perfectly clear are that a well-ordered State cannot exist until a sovereign power is recognized and that the units of which it is composed are families.

This was a major defect of theoretical construction, because his theory of sovereignty was left standing merely as a definition of something which sometimes exists put for which he has no explanation. He eliminated the mandate of God, which the theory of divine right offered as a foundation for the king’s authority, but he did not fill the gap with a natural explanation.

Jean Bodin on Sovereignty:-

Bodin’s statement of the principle of sovereignty is generally agreed to be the most important part of his political philosophy. The presence of sovereign power is taken by him to be the mark which distinguishes the state from all the other groupings into which families fall.

Accordingly he began by defining citizenship as subjection to a sovereign. The defining conceptions of the state are sovereign and subject, a view which logically places social, ethical, and religious relationships outside the bounds of political theory. As Bodin urged, innumerable other relations may subsist between citizens besides subjection to a common sovereign, but it is subjection which makes them citizens. They may or may not have a common language and religion.

Various groups of them may have peculiar laws or local customs which are countenanced by the sovereign. The burghers of a city may have recognized privileges or communities, and a corporate body may be permitted to make and enforce its own rules for certain purposes.

A grouping of this kind, where law, language, religion, and custom are identical, Bodin called a cité, a term which corresponds roughly to the idea of a nation, at least in the sense that it suggests a social union rather than a formal political bond. The cite is not a state (republique); the latter exists only where the citizens are subject to the rule of a common sovereign.

The relation of this conception to the political problems of Bodin’s own time is manifest. He is urging, in the manner of the Politiques, that the political bond may be self-sufficient even though the political community be divided by differences of religion and by the survival of local, customary, and class immunities. The essential element of the political community is the presence of a common sovereign.

Bodin’s next step was to define sovereignty as supreme power over citizens and subjects, unrestrained by law and to analyze the conception of supreme power. It is, in the first place, perpetual as distinguished from any grant of power that is limited to a specific period of time.

It is undelegated, or delegated without limit or condition. It is inalienable and not subject to prescription. It is unrestrained by law because the sovereign is the source of law. The sovereign cannot bind himself or his successors and he cannot be made legally accountable to his subjects, though Bodin had no doubt that the sovereign was answerable to God and subject to natural law.

The law of the land jg simply the sovereign’s command and accordingly any limitation on the power to command must be extra-legal. The primary attribute of sovereignty is the power to give laws to citizens collectively and severally without the consent of a superior, an equal, or an inferior. The attributes-the power to declare war and treat for peace, to commission magistrates, to act as a court of last resort, to grant dispensations, to coin money, and to tax-all are consequences of the sovereign’s position as legal head of the state.

As Bodin was careful to explain, this implies also the sovereign’s control over customary law, which he sanctions by permitting it to exist. Enactment, Bodin holds, can change custom, but not custom enactment.

This principle of a unified legal headship as the mark of a true state was applied with great clearness by Bodin to the ancient theory of forms of government. From his point of view every government which is not to be a prey to anarchy, every well-ordered state, must have in it somewhere this indivisible source of authority.

Hence different forms of government can vary only in the location of this power, There are no forms of state, though there are forms of government. In a monarchy sovereignty resides in the king and therefore the function of the estates is advisory only, as Bodin believed was the case in France and England. It is expedient for monarchs to consult their advisers but it cannot be mandatory, and the monarch cannot be legally bound by the advice given.

If a king, so-called, is bound by an act of the estates, then sovereignty really resides in the assembly and the government is an aristocracy. This is the case, according to Bodin, in the empire of his day. Again, if the final power of decision and review rests with some sort of popular body, then the government is democratic.

In short, there is no such thing as a mixed state. Either there is no undivided sovereign power, and in that case there is no well-ordered state, or this power resides in some one place, whether it be king, assembly, or populace. Bodin’s treatment of forms of government implies a clear cut distinction between state and government.

The state consists in the possession of sovereign power; government consists in the apparatus through which such power is exercised. A monarch may delegate his power widely and therefore govern popularly, while a democracy may govern despotically.

The theory of sovereignty was applied by Jean Bodin also in his discussion of the subordinate parts of the state. In a monarchy the functions of parliament must be advisory. Similarly the power exercised by magistrates is delegated by the sovereign. Again, all the corporate bodies which exist within the state-religious bodies, municipalities, and commercial companies-owe their powers and privileges to the will of the sovereign.

Jean Bodin took for granted the existence of great numbers of such bodies, as was natural in his time, and also their possession of considerable powers of self-direction. He was even favorable to such a policy of practical decentralization. What he was most concerned to urge was that all corporate bodies exist only by the sovereign’s permission and that all their powers are derived from his consent.

As in the case of customary law, the powers of corporations are constructively derived from the state, even though they may rest upon ancient usage and not upon charter or statute. It was a prime object of the Republic to represent the king of France as the head of the entire political organization, though Bodin had no desire for a radical destruction of ancient corporations such as actually took place at the time of the French Revolution.

His purpose was to make a foothold for the rights of the monarchy against all the survivors of the feudal age. It is significant that he treated the estates as merely one of the corporations which the sovereign permits, along with trading companies and ecclesiastical bodies.

Limitations on Sovereignty:-

The preceding account of Bodin’s theory of sovereign power takes account only of the parts of his argument which are straightforward and free from difficulties. In its entirety, however, the argument was by no means so simple, but contained serious confusions which must be noted in order to complete the picture. In general, sovereignty meant or Bodin a perpetual, humanly unlimited, and unconditional right to make, interpret, and execute law.

The existence of such a right he believed to be necessary to any well-ordered state, forming the characteristic difference between a developed political body and more primitive groups. But the exercise of sovereign power which he regarded as justifiable was by no means so unlimited as his definitions imply, and the result is a series of restrictions that introduce a great amount of confusion into the finished theory.

In the first place, Bodin never doubted that the sovereign was bound by the law of God and of nature. Though he defined law as a sheer act of the sovereign’s will, he never supposed that the sovereign could make right by mere fiat. For him as for all his contemporaries, the law of nature stands above human law and sets certain unchangeable standards of right; it is the observance of this law that distinguishes the true state from mere effective violence.

There is, of course, no way to make the sovereign legally liable for violating the law of nature. Still, natural law does impose some real disabilities on him. In particular, it requires the keeping of agreements and respect for private property, The sovereign’s agreements may involve political obligations toward his subjects or toward other sovereigns, and in such cases Bodin had no doubt that he was bound.

It was difficult if not impossible for him to keep these obligations of the sovereign exclusively on a moral plane and so apart from legal and political obligations. What, for example, would be the duty of a magistrate if the sovereign were to command something contrary to natural law?

Bodin had no doubt that there might be cases so flagrant that the sovereign ought to be disobeyed, He did all he could to reduce such cases to the narrowest limits, but the confusion was none the less there. Law is at once the will of the sovereign and an expression of eternal justice; yet the two may be in conflict.

A second confusion in Bodin’s theory of sovereignty arose from his fidelity to the constitutional Jaw of France. All his natural inclinations, both as a lawyer and a moralist, were on the side of constitutional government and respect for the ancient usages and practices of the realm. In common with the prevailing legal opinion of his time, he recognized that there were certain things which the king of France could not lawfully do.

Specifically, he could not modify the succession and he could not alienate any part of the public domain; yet he was convinced that the king of France was sovereign in the full sense of the word, in fact was the example par excellence of a sovereign. He admitted the existence of a peculiar class of laws which are necessarily connected with the exercise of sovereignty itself and which even the sovereign cannot change.

These he called apparently that sovereignty itself would vanish with their violation. The confusion here is manifest; the sovereign is at once the source of law and the subject of certain constitutional laws which he has not made and cannot change.

The fact is that Bodin had two purposes which were united rather by circumstances than by logic. He was seeking to increase and consolidate the powers of the crown, because this was necessary in the circumstances, but he was also a convinced constituticonalist bent on saving and perpetuating the ancient institutions of the realm.

Neither on logical nor historical grounds could the realm be identified with the crown. The idea behind was that, except as an element of the realm, the crown would have neither existence nor power; the idea behind the definition of sovereignty was that the crown is the chief legislative and executive organ in the realm. These two propositions are not incompatible, but there is room for endless confusion when they are both loosely combined in the conception of sovereignty. To make a really systematic theory, Bodin would have had to make up pis mind which of the two was fundamental.

For if sovereignty means essentially the supremacy of the prince, then the political community has no existence except by virtue of the relation between the prince and his subjects, and it is impossible that the realm should have laws of its own which the prince cannot change. Substantially this is the line of thought which Hobbes, starting partly from Bodin, later developed. On the other hand, if the state is a political community having laws and a constitution of its own, it is impossible that the sovereign should be identified with the prince.

Bodin’s confusion on this point was due partly, no doubt, to his immediate purpose: he could hardly have combated revolution by inculcating loyalty to a juristic abstraction. For this purpose a visible and tangible king, the vicar of God on earth, was altogether the more appealing idea, at least until national sentiment had given the nation itself solidity enough to make the king dispensable.

On the other hand, a visible king is not easy to insert into a system of juristic concepts. In part, however, the confusion was deeply involved in the method of political philosophy which Bodin was trying to follow. This method contemplated the combination of history and philosophy, of factual evolution and logical analysis.

From the point of view of history the realm of France. the political community, would almost necessarily be taken as a single social being, continuous and self-identical through an indefinitely long series of gradual changes. From the point of view of analysis it would be almost equally necessary to make a cross-section through the historical stream and consider the formal relations be|tween the parts of the legal constitution.

No analysis would fit all stages of the history, and for this reason the history would violate the ‘canons of any formal analysis. Bodin was undertaking something that was difficult perhaps to the point of impossibility. His confusions about the make a starting-point for the long controversy between an analytic and an historical method in jurisprudence.

There was still a third confusion in Bodin’s theory of sovereignty more immediately serious than the two already mentioned. This concerned his very strong convictions about the inviolability of private property. This right is guaranteed by the law of nature but it constituted for Bodin more than a normal limitation on the power of the sovereign. So sacred is property that the sovereign cannot touch it without the owner’s consent. Accordingly he asserted that taxation requires the assent of the estates.

But there is nothing whatever about taxation to Justify Bodin in thus setting it apart from other legislation, and he had denied in the most explicit fashion that the estates can act in any but aft advisory capacity in the maxing of law. indeed, the very existence of the estates depended spun the delegation by the sovereign of a qualified authority to a subordinate corporation.

In this case the confusion amounts to a flat contradiction, arising from the defective organization of his theory already referred to. The right of property  to be an indefeasible attribute of the family, and the family is an independently existing unit out of which the state is constructed.

A well-ordered state, however, requires a sovereign wise legal power is unlimited. Thus Bodin’s state contained two absolutes the indefeasible rights of the family and the unlimited legislative power of the sovereign of the two the rights of property were more fundamental to his thought, at least in the sense that they formed standing convictions about which he hardly felt the need for argument.

The unlimited power of the sovereign had a more occasional origin in the dangers produced by the religious wars.? If Bodin ever tried seriously to justify to himself the discrepancy between the two positions, he probably followed a line of thought similar to that used in the treatment of the leges imperii.

The rights of property are essential to the family and the family is essential to the state; but the power to tax is the power to destroy; and the state cannot possess the power to destroy its own members, At all events he was perfectly explicit in asserting that taxation requires assent and in treating it as an inherent limitation on sovereignty, like the leges imperii. Logically his thought breaks in two at the point where the theory of the family ought to be joined to the theory of the state.

The Well-Ordered State:-

The remainder of the Republic discussed a multitude of subjects but added nothing to the outlines of the theory. It examined exhaustively the causes and prevention of revolutions, again following the lead of Aristotle. In accord with his general theory, Bodin defined revolution as a displacement of sovereignty.

No matter how much laws may change, a revolution does not take place so long as sovereignty re-sides in the same place. He enumerated many causes of revolution, of warrior degree of importance in general there little order in this  part of the book, though many of Bodin’s observations were judicious.

His discussion of the prevision of revolutions was a curious excursion into the uses of astrology for this purpose, while his analysis of the means for preventing them led him to cover every branch of administration and permitted him to display a really great fund of political acumen and wisdom. Broadly speaking, this part of the work was an exposition of the policy of the Politiques.

The king, he holds, should not ally himself with any faction but should follow a policy of conciliation, using repression cautiously and only where there is a strong probability of success. The most significant aspect of the argument was his firm defense of religious toleration, which however he here treated rather as a policy than a principle. He later dealt more philosophically with the subject in the extraordinary dialogue called the Heptaplomeres, a work which for obvious reasons it was impossible to publish in the sixteenth century.

The examination of revolutions led to the more general subject of the relation of physical environment to national characteristics. Here also Bodin started from Aristotle but greatly elaborated the whole subject. Northern peoples, he believed, are large and physically vigorous but slow of movement and of mind. Southerners are slight of build, vivacious in manner, and surpass in acuteness and ingenuity. For political purposes the middle region, where the two sets of qualities are mingled, is superior, as is shown by the fact that the great states) as well as the science of politics, have originated there. This portion of Bodin’s work formed an integral part of his whole political philosophy and suggested the later speculations of Montesquieu on the subject, but he made no attempt to bring it into logical relation with his theory of sovereignty. Its presence in his system, however, marks the vast difference between Bodin and the theological controversialists who wrote most of the political theory of the time.

After this excuses Bodin passed on to consider the obligation of the sovereign to keep faith in treaties and alliances. Here he deplored the growing belief that princes are not bound by promises to their own disadvantage, the argument being aimed at Machiavelli. It showed a growing sense of the need for restraining absolute sovereigns in their international dealings, a need which eventuated some fifty years later in the effort of Grotius to formulate an international law. Finally, Jean Bodin considered at length the financial policies of the state, its sources of revenue, and the desirability of various forms of taxation. Incidentally he argued at length for the revival of the Roman censorship, partly as a means for obtaining exact information about the resources of the kingdom but largely as a means of morale purification.

The Republic was brought to a close with a chapter which In some measure may be regarded as containing the nerve of the whole book. Bodin compared the three forms of state in order to show the superiority of monarchy. Here, and indeed throughout, it is evident that he regarded a monarchy of the French type, or what he took to be the French type, as the only form of well-ordered state.

Heredity and even the Salic Law, he tried to prove, were founded not only in custom but in reason. In spite of his previous admission that sovereignty may be vested in an aristocracy or in the people, he was convinced that in practice this leads to anarchy and to the ruin of subjects as well as rulers. The only really well-ordered state is one in which sovereignty is undivided because it resides in a single person.

This distinction of possible states and the one well-ordered state runs all through Bodin’s work, but it is a source of uncleanness because it is not steadily maintained. He was never quite certain whether sovereignty is a quality | which it is desirable for the state to possess but which actual states sometimes lack, or whether it was a quality which every state must of necessity possess.

In general, he preferred to defend the theory as if it were a universal logical necessity, and yet he really believed that many or perhaps most states do not rise to the level of a well-ordered monarchy, in which alone undivided sovereignty is possible. The confusion of the necessary with the desirable is a fault to which the project for uniting philosophy and history was peculiarly prone. Like many later philosophers who had a similar aim, Jean Bodin stated what was really program of reform under the guise of a pronouncement of eternal truth.

Despite the many confusions in his thought, Bodin’s political philosophy was a work of no slight importance. Compared with any other work of the second half of the sixteenth century it was broadly conceived and impressively executed. The neglect into which the Republic soon fell was due more to its manner than its substance and many books of less weight survived longer. At the same time, Bodin’s system was not a philosophical construction of the first rank.

Its two sides constitutionalism and centralized power were not really drawn together. Natural law, upon which the structure everywhere rested, was accepted as a tradition and was never analyzed or solidly based. The theory of sovereignty, though Bodin’s statement of it was the clearest given in the sixteenth century, floats in the air, a feat of definition rather than of explanation.

The ends of a well-ordered state, the nature of the subject’s obligation to obey, and the relation between the state and its constituent families all require further analysis. But from this uncleanness two problems emerged which largely occupied the attention of political philosophy in the century after Bodin. One was the theory of sovereignty in terms of power-the definition of the state as a relation between political inferiors and a political superior and of law as a command.

This conception was systematically developed by Hobbes. The other was a modernizing and secularizing of the  ancient theory of natural law, in order to find if possible an ethical and yet a not merely authoritarian foundation for political power. This revision was chiefly the work of Grotius and Locke. So successful was it that natural law became, in the estimation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the valid scientific form of political theory.


SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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