For the fifth session of Trinity, we will have the great honor to receive Professor Céline Spector, who will present and discuss her article published on Le Grand Continent (and available in English here), « Is European Democracy possible ? »
Finding the right scale to create a political organization where democracy can flourish is part and parcel of Montesquieu’s theory of democracy. According to him, democracy is only possible on a small scale, because a large political organization always requires a ‘despotic authority.’
However, Montesquieu also considers the possibility of a confederation of republics (‘Spirit of Laws‘, chapter IX) : ‘If a republic is small, it is destroyed by a foreign force ; if it is large, it is ruined by an internal imperfection […] It is therefore very probable that mankind would have been at length obliged to live constantly under the government of a single person, had they not contrived a kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of a republican, together with the external force of a monarchical, government. I mean a confederate republic‘.
Picking up this idea, and its use by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist, Celine Spector argues in the article that the European Union could be a ‘confederate republic‘ or a ‘society of societies’ and thus a democracy, notwithstanding its massive scale.
Céline Spector’s research includes work in modern and contemporary political theory, and history of philosophy (especially the French Enlightenment, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and their legacy, from Tocqueville to contemporary political theory, Rawls, Habermas, and Foucault). She is currently working on issues relating to the « sense of justice » (from Hume and Rousseau to Rawls and its critics). Her research interest also includes the genealogy of the idea of Europe since the eighteenth century (with a critical approach of post-colonial studies).
No debate experience or political background is necessary. We value diversity of perspectives and opinions.
Free refreshments will be provided at 7pm and the session starts at 7:15 promptly.
Saint John’s College, New Seminar Room (see map below)