Commercial Republicanism

In Frank Lovett & Tim Sellers (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Republicanism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Commercial republicanism is the idea that a properly-structured commercial society can serve the republican end of minimizing the domination of citizens by states (imperium) and of citizens by other citizens (dominium). Much has been written about this idea in the last half-century, including analyses of individual commercial republicans (e.g., Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant) as well as discussions of national traditions of the same (e.g., in America, Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Italy). In this chapter, I review five kinds of arguments that have been historically offered for how commercial society so understood advances the republican ideal of non-domination: first, by simply realizing non-dominating relationships in the marketplace itself (Instantiation); second, by encouraging the growth of a wide middle class that can offer a counterweight to other, dominating classes (Internal Check-and-Balance); third, by increasing the wealth and power of republics vis-à-vis other, dominating states in the international arena (External Check-and-Balance); fourth, by helpfully nurturing bourgeois-civic virtues in republican citizens (Cultivating Virtue); and finally, by transforming dangerous passions into more readily regulable, even socially beneficial material interests (Sublimating Vice). I end the chapter by briefly considering commercial republicanism’s prospects as a continuing research program.

Author's Profile

Robert S. Taylor
University of California, Davis


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