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Cicero's Social and Political Thought

Neal Wood

Publication Year: 1991

In this close examination of the social and political thought of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.), Neal Wood focuses on Cicero's conceptions of state and government, showing that he is the father of constitutionalism, the archetype of the politically conservative mind, and the first to reflect extensively on politics as an activity.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

I have written this study—to my knowledge the first if its kind in English—out of a conviction that Cicero the social and political thinker deserves far more attention than he has received in recent years, when few any longer read him. Long-standing concerns with the history of political theory and classical antiquity and my ...

Note on the Sources

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p. xiii-xiii

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I. Introduction: Cicero's Significance

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pp. 1-13

Why should anyone today be concerned with the social and political ideas of the late Roman republican thinker and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero? Is it not flailing a dead horse? Cicero's merit as philosopher has been so deflated and his popularity as sage and stylist has so declined that the endeavor would appear ...

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II. Ciceronian Society

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pp. 14-41

Polybius, who witnessed the destruction of Carthage in 146 B.C. in the company of his friend the Roman commander Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Minor, begins his great history of the Republic by stating his purpose: "For who is so worthless or indolent as not to wish to know by what means and under what system of ...

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III. Cicero's Life and Works

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pp. 42-69

The extraordinary intellectual ferment and literary creativity of the last years of the Republic were possibly in direct response to these chaotic conditions and the attendant anxieties about the future instilled among the upper echelons of society.1 Roman culture ...

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IV. Law, Justice, and Human Nature

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pp. 70-89

Because of its centrality to his thought as a whole, Cicero's natural- law conception of the universe and man is the most obvious point of departure for any consideration of his social and political ideas. His unshakable belief in the rational order of the universe and man is perhaps his most basic value, the intellectual underpinning ...

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V. Moral Equality and Social Inequality

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pp. 90-104

Cicero is often praised for being the first important social and political theorist to postulate the moral equality of humans, a notion basic to the theory of natural law and justice which he derived from Stoicism. A contradiction, however, exists between his basic ethical position and his acceptance in theory and practice of an ...

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VI. Private Property and Its Accumulation

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pp. 105-119

If for Cicero the quintessential consequence of man's rational nature is his potential for moral virtue, another significant result is the human propensity to acquire and accumulate private property. Our natural instinct for self-preservation forces us to acquire possessions for the survival and well-being of ourselves and our ...

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VII. The Idea of the State

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pp. 120-142

In view of the revival of interest in the state among social scientists, and rehabilitation of the notion by many students of politics, Cicero's thought on the subject is of fundamental significance. He is the first important social and political thinker to give a succinct formal definition of the state,1 and to conceive of its ...

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VIII. Types of State

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pp. 143-158

In the Republic, before Cicero shows that Rome is the ideal polity he surveys other forms of state, catalogues their strengths and weaknesses, and indicates why they do not measure up to his standard of the best. This project in political science entails some sort of typology of historical states. Cicero classifies them in two ...

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IX. Essentials of the Mixed Constitution

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pp. 159-175

The doctrine of the mixed constitution is one of the most important legacies of ancient political theory to modern times. Not only did it have a decisive impact on the general development of the idea of constitutionalism since the Middle Ages, but also, in the early modern period, especially on the theory of mixed monarchy ...

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X. The Art of Politics

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pp. 176-205

Cicero is the only important political thinker who devoted a life to politics and attained the highest governmental office. We might, therefore, expect that in addition to his discourses on justice, law, and the state, he might convey in some form to his readers the wisdom and insight gained in the actual conduct of weighty ...

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XI. Conclusion

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pp. 206-213

The preceding pages have attempted to describe in some detail Cicero's social and political ideas and their contribution to the history of the subject. From this standpoint his legacy can be most economically summarized as consisting of a conception of natural law and justice; a theory of the state to which a notion of private ...


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pp. 215-261

Select Bibliography

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pp. 263-273


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pp. 275-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780520911284
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520074279

Page Count: 301
Publication Year: 1991