Sunday, September 11, 2016

Impact of Philosophers and Intellectuals on Revolution in USA, UK, France, Latin America

Whenever a society or a nation is in a state of flux, intellectual class comes forward to provide for an assessment of problems and ways to deal with it. These ideas have far reaching impact and have changed the course of history. The ideas of philosophers in the Age of Enlightenment deeply impacted the course of history in UK, USA, France and Latin America

On England: 

1) Hobbes – Hobbes was a thinker who witnessed the 100 year war in Europe and his ideas on state of nature, sovereignty, liberty, law, state had a profound influence on England.

a. Hobbes is in favour of absolute authority being vested in the state and the the idea of a sovereign state. Hobbes has given the complete theory of state sovereignty, no limitations on state, neither customary laws nor religious law. Unlike the medieval times when religion had a vice like grip on political affairs, the Parliament in England was supreme and made laws relating to affairs of the state

b. Hobbes defines the primary function of state which is to maintain law and order. This was essential for the emerging capitalist class of the time in England for they needed peace to carry on trade and commerce.

c. Hobbes believed in the idea of positive law i.e. laws made by the state and unlike Locke did not believe in natural law leading to the establishment of Procedure Established by Law

d. He gave the theory of legal rights ie rights recognized and given by the state which had an impact on several rights movement in England in 18th and 19th centuries

On USA: 

1) Locke – Locke was a thinker who greatly impacted US’s constitution.

a. Locke believed in the tradition of natural rights over life, liberty and property which find a mention in the Declaration of American independence

b. He continued the tradition of social contract i.e. people entering into a contract with government to protect these rights. This led to the government deriving its authority from the people in USA and its role in protecting the rights of the citizens. It also led to an important place being accorded to “civil society”

c. Locke was an ardent supporter of Right to property in tune with the needs of the capitalist class. A major role of the US state was to protect property rights and encourage commerce. US state as envisaged in the Declaration of Independence was a minimal state or night watchman state as postulated in the ideas of Locke

2) Montesquieu – Montesquieu's idea of Separation of Power has been appropriated most closely by the US constitution where the three pillars viz Legislature, Executive and Judiciary are separate with the Doctrine of Checks and Balances incorporated in the US Constitution

3) Thomas Paine - He wrote a book called “Common Sense” in which he talked about the exploitative policies of Britain and gave the solution of independence to Americans. He mentions that “it is repugnant to imagine that a continent can remain subject to any foreign power, especially an island nation”

4) Propagation of Paine’s ideas was done by Benjamin Franklin who established the Philosophical Society of America. It had centres in different part of America and its main objective was to create awakening and awareness of people there

5) Henry Patrick also played an important role in pushing people to fight for independence when he gave the slogan “Give me death or independence”

On France: 

1) Voltaire – Voltaire’s advocacy of liberty is a foundational idea of French Republic. He believed in the power of creativity and advocated freedom of speech and expression. The ideal of Liberty in French Revolution was inspired by Voltaire. He also advocated that archaic religious laws which stifle creativity to be discarded which laid the foundation of a secular state in France

2) Rousseau – In his book “Social Contract’, Rousseau mentions that “Kingship is not gift of God”. He highlighted that property is the root cause of man’s problem but acknowledged it to be a necessary evil. He advocated a new Social Contract between the people and the government, the basis of which would be “original will” or people coming together to decide the framework of the contract. For this he mentions, it is critical to give Liberty, Equality and Fraternity to the people. He highlighted that no government can be stable which is not according to the will of the people. All his ideas had an important bearing on French revolution and the consequent political developments such as framing a Constitution by the national assembly

3) Didronet – He made an encyclopedia of France’s problems and also provided solutions. For instance, he mentions that religion is the personal affair of an individual and state has no role to play in it leading to the establishment of a secular state

On Latin America 

1) The ideas of Locke and Rousseau influenced Latin-American revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar. Bolívar fought to liberate his country, present-day Venezuela, from Spanish rule. He also led movements for independence and democracy in what are now the nations of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru Thus the thinkers, as highlighted earlier had a critical role to play in the evolution of History in these countries

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