4. English Republicanism and the Concept of Interest

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Alberto Ribeiro Gonçalves de Barros

Abstract

This paper examines the concept of interest as employed by authors who defended the Commonwealth established in England from 1649 to 1660. Based on Marchamont Nedham’s and James Harrington’s political writings, it seeks to understand their constitutional proposals for the problem of the relation between private and public interests. If Nedham conceived politics as the process of continual conflicts between competing interests where only one of them can emerge triumphant, Harrington proposed constitutional devices capable of accommodating the diversity of private interests and extracting from them a public interest. They argued that the most appropriate political regime to effect the people’s interest was a popular government, which allowed the separation of legislative and executive functions, and associated it to a classical idea of mixed constitution. Nevertheless, their proposals depart from this classical ideal, characterized by incorporation and interaction of the various parts of the body politic, and project the constitutional government of modern republics.


Keywords: Marchamont Nedham, James Harrington, Interest, Popular Government, Mixed Constitution

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