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Montesquieu and the Despotic Ideas of Europe
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Montesquieu and the Despotic Ideas of Europe: An Interpretation of "The Spirit of the Laws"

Vickie B. Sullivan

Abstract

Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws is famous for overtly associating despotism with Asia and the Middle East and not with Europe. A scholar on this basis might be inclined to term Montesquieu an Orientalist, one who gazes at exotic foreign cultures in order to exert control over these distant peoples in both thought and in reality. Sullivan argues, however, that Montesquieu’s great work, contrary to first impressions, actually implicates Europe itself with despotism. Specifically, the Frenchman reveals that many of Europe’s greatest philosophical and religious ideas are themselves despotic and h ... More

Keywords: Montesquieu, despotism, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Christian doctrines, Plato, Sparta, Aristotle, slavery, philosopher as legislator, criminal justice

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2017 Print ISBN-13: 9780226482910
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226483078.001.0001

Authors

Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Vickie B. Sullivan, author
Tufts University