W. M. Spellman's A Short History of Western Political Thought PDF

By W. M. Spellman

This short narrative survey of political proposal over the last millennia explores key rules that experience formed Western political traditions.

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768–814), head of the Carolinigian family of rulers, who displaced the successors of Clovis in Gaul during the early eighth century. Clovis had established the Merovingian dynasty by virtue of success on the battlefield, but those who followed him on the throne carelessly alienated crown estates, ultimately weakening their own position in relation to their nearest potential rivals. In addition, the Merovingian kings tended to allocate portions of their lands to each of their male heirs, further eroding the royal patrimony and prompting ruinous civil conflicts among equally undeserving children.

Western Europe during the Middle Ages was a unified quasi-state in the sense that religious heterodoxy was disallowed everywhere. Almost everyone agreed that dissent was to be crushed, the “other” reproached and, if need be, eliminated. But the Middle Ages also bequeathed early forms of consultative government that were deeply embedded in the culture of Germanic society. Feudal land systems, rising to prominence in the tenth century, emphasized reciprocal obligations amongst the military elite, and the propriety of customary land tenure for the unfree serf.

The hope, of course, was that the Christian prince would fulfill his obligations to rule justly as a matter Christian practice. But when monsters wield power and take aim at God’s law, passive resistance is the strongest permissible recourse. The faithful must avoid complicity in City-States and Republics c. 400 BCE–c. 400 CE 31 the ruler’s perversions, but so too they must accept punishment and even death in a spirit of humility. Righteous tyrannicide found no place in the Augustinian moral universe, even though the State—unlike the Church— was of no value when it came to issues of eternal moment.

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