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The Political Thought of Montaigne
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The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne
Oxford University Press
Presenting Montaigne’s “political” thought is in itself a problematic exercise. While the Essays are relevant to our understanding of sixteenth-century political discourse, and to the broader reflection of political philosophy, Montaigne did not see politics as a separate domain of human activity; indeed, he questioned the possibility to predict with any degree of certainty, and to control individual and collective human behavior. In the Essays the author developed a full-scale critique of Old Regime society, a system built upon relations of personal dependence and servitude: his attack focused on contemporary social practices and on their founding principles: tradition, the law, royal authority, and religious dogma. Montaigne did not advocate the establishment of a new type of regime, as he was convinced that the form of political institutions was largely dependent on habit and custom. He did suggest the possibility of a new vision of community, one based upon greater equality, toleration, communication, and economic exchange.
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