Gratton on sovereignty

Peter Gratton replies to two of my recent posts here and here. Both replies have great titles. The first is a discussion of the canon. Peter writes 

As someone who wrote an entire chapter on Boulainviller, I’m happy to change this canon… But more seriously, I was reading a book on Leibniz that recalls what works he was reading, and I think we miss the historical movement of nationalism is we read Locke, Rousseau, etc. In other words, it makes political philosophy a clean debate and leaves out politics as it is altogether. I’ve also written on Sièyes and Bodin, two fascinating figures in their own right. Leibniz’s politics work themselves are well worth reading and I should write on that at some point. Anything to avoid Locke’s Second Treatise: I can never feign much excitement for Locke.. 

I’m not sure yet quite how Boulainviller will feature in what I’m writing, but he’s an intriguing figure. I read some of his work when I was working on Foucault’s lectures. The other one that Foucault mentions that there is a brief discussion of in my book is François Hotman. Bodin is discussed in some detail. Sièyes is outside the timespan of the book. Locke will feature, because of the discussion of property in land and the argument about tacit consent through location. But Leibniz is going to play a fundamental role. He’s a really important political thinker, to my mind. The standard English language Political Writings in the Cambridge history of political thought series is not a good edition though. There is at least one major translation howler. 

In a separate post Peter mentions his forthcoming SUNY Press book The State of Sovereignty: Lessons from the Political Fictions of Modernity. That’s another great title. I’ve been using ‘The State of Territory’ to describe my work for some time, and the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham had ‘The State of Sovereignty’ as its conference title last year. But none of us can lay claim to originality. The first instance of the phrase ‘the state of sovereignty’ being used, that I know, is in Richard Knolles’s 1606 translation of Bodin. But the first place it is worked through in detail is in a text usually, but probably inaccurately, attributed to Walter Ralegh, ‘Maxims of State’. 

Policy is an art of government of a commonwealth, and some part of it, according to that state or form of government wherein it is settled for the public good.

State is the frame or set order of a commonwealth, or of the governors that rule the same, especially of the chief and sovereign governor that commandeth the rest. 

The state of sovereignty consisteth of five points: 

1. The making or annulling of laws. 

2. Creating and disposing of magistrates. 

3. Power over life and death. 

4. Making of war or peace. 

5. Highest or last appeal. 

Where these five are, either in one or in more, there is the state. 

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This entry was posted in Boundaries, Gottfried Leibniz, Jean Bodin, John Locke, Michel Foucault, Peter Gratton, Territory, The Birth of Territory, Walter Ralegh. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Gratton on sovereignty

  1. Peter says:

    Oh goodness, some major typos in that post of mine apparently. I missed that conference entirely, though who knows—things pass by one on the flows of the internet and it might stick somewhere. But thanks for the kind words on the title: The title for that book gave me great pain–every once in a while I threw up a title to see if it stuck, and this one just simply just simply lasted long enough to get through the final submission. As for Leibniz, i’ll definitely have to dig into that part of your book. Major claims are made, for example, for Spinoza (though he’s rarely read in pol. theory courses), but it seems to me that Leibniz is only left out because of Anglo-centric rendering of that history. As for Boulainvillers, he’s a quirky, grouchy figure. But he was reading Spinoza, later wrote on Islam, and was accused of being a Mohammeden (or however that’s spelled). Best, for some reason, his enemies took to adding an “i” to his name (Boulainvilliers), which has to be the strangest way to mock someone, or at least perhaps they were just mispelling it…

  2. Craig says:

    As memory serves, he not only wrote on Spinoza, but was instrumental in his dissemination into France, including a translation. He was also into astrology–predicting deaths and such. Saint-Simon writes about this in his diary. There’s a volume that collects his writings on Spinoza (and astrology?).

    • stuartelden says:

      Yes, I’d heard he was a translator of Spinoza. I need to look at his writings more thoroughly, so thanks for the tips.

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