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Johannes Althusius

Publication Year: 2012

Drawing deeply from Aristotle and biblical teaching, Politic presents a unique vision of the commonwealth as a harmonious ordering of natural associations. According to Althusius, the purpose of the state is to protect and encourage social life. The family is the most natural of human associations, and all other unions derive from it. Power and authority properly grow from more local to more general associations.

Of particular interest to the modern reader is Althusius's theory of federalism. It does not refer merely to a division of powers between central and state governments, but to an ascending scale of authority in which higher institutions rely on the consent of local and voluntary associations.

Johannes Althusius (1557–1638) was a German political and legal philosopher.

Frederick S. Carn was Professor Emeritus of Ethics at the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

Daniel J. Elazar is Director of the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University and Professor of Political Science at Temple and at Bar Ilan University in Israel.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Translator's Introduction

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pp. ix-xxxiii

Johannes Althusius has enjoyed the good fortune in recent times of frequent notice in political, theological, sociological, and historical writings. This has been true ever since Otto Gierke in the latter part of the nineteenth century recovered Althusius from two centuries of relative obscurity, and attributed to his Politica (Politica methodice digesta) ...

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Althusius' Grand Design for a Federal Commonwealth

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pp. xxxv-xlvi

The road to modern democracy began with the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, particularly among those exponents of Reformed Protestantism who developed a theology and politics that set the Western world back on the road to popular self-government, emphasizing liberty and equality.1 While the original founders and ...

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Althusius' Literary SourcesReferred to in This Translation

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pp. xlvii-lvii

Although Althusius' sources were entirely in Latin, this li st whenever possible directs the reader not only to an English translation but also to editions in French and German. In addition, proper names for the most through the graciousness of a number of American libraries; the stan dard bibliographic catalogues and reference works have been consulted ...

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pp. lviii-lix


Note on the Liberty Fund Edition

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p. lxi-lxi

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Preface to the First Edition (1603)

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pp. 3-9

I have attempted, most distinguished and learned men, honorable relatives and friends, to restate in an appropriate order the many political precepts that have been handed down in various writings, and to find out whether a methodical plan of instruction according to the precepts of logicians can be followed in these ...

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Preface to the Third Edition (1614)

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pp. 11-15

Since I understand, illustrious leaders, that my former political treatise has been read by many persons, and all copies have been sold out, I have brought forth another edition.1 By re-examining the earlier work, and recalling it to the forge, I have intended to perform a worthwhile service. This has been done during ...

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I. The General Elements of Politics

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pp. 17-26

Politics is the art of associating (consociandi) men for the purpose of establishing, cultivating, and conserving social life among them. Whence it is called "symbiotics." The subject matter of politics is therefore association (consociatio), in which the symbiotes1 pledge themselves each to the other, by explicit or tacit ...

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II-III The Family

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pp. 27-32

Thus far we have discussed the general elements of politics. We turn now to types of association or of symbiotic life2 The simple and private association is a society and symbiosis initiated by a special covenant (pactum) among the members for the ...

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IV. The Collegium

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pp. 33-38

This completes the discussion of the natural association. We turn now to the civil association, which is a body organized by assembled persons according to their own pleasure and will to serve a common utility and necessity in human life. That is to say, they agree among themselves by common consent on a manner of ruling and obeying ...

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V-VI. The City

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pp. 39-50

With this discussion of the civil and private association, we turn now to the public association. For human society develops from private to public association by the definite steps and progressions of small societies. The public association exists when many private associations are linked together for the purpose of establishing an ...

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VII-VIII. The Province

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pp. 51-65

We have completed the discussion of the community. We turn now to the province,1 which contains within its territory many villages, towns, outposts, and cities united under the communion and administration of one right (jus).2 It is also called a region, district, diocese, or community. I identify the ...

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IX. Political Sovereignty and Ecclesiastical Communication

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pp. 66-78

Now that we have discussed particular and minor public associations, we turn to the universal and major public association. In this association many cities and provinces obligate themselves to hold, organize, use, and defend, through their common energies and expenditures, the right of the realm (jus regni)2 in ...

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X-XVII. Secular Communication

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pp. 79-91

Now that we have discussed the ecclesiastical aspect of symbiotic communion in the universal association, we turn to its secular counterpart. Secular and political communion in the universal realm is the process by which the necessary and convenient means for carrying on a common life of justice together ...

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XVIII. The Ephors and Their Duties

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pp. 92-119

We have thus far discussed the right of communion in the universal association. We now turn our attention to the administration of this right. This is the activity by which the rights (jura)1 of universal symbiotic association are ordered, properly administered, and dispensed by designated public ministers of ...

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XIX-XX. The Constituting of the Supreme Magistrate

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pp. 120-134

So much for the ephors of the universal association. We turn now to its supreme magistrate. The supreme magistrate is he who, having been constituted according to the laws (leges) of the universal association for its welfare and utility, administers its rights (jura) and commands compliance with them. Although the ...

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XXI-XXVII. Political Prudence in the Administration of the Commonwealth

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pp. 135-158

The constituting of the Supreme Magistrate has thus far been discussed. We turn now to his administration, which is conducted according to the agreement by which it was bestowed. In keeping with the agreement, this administration pertains not to individuals, but to the members of the realm collectively ...

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XXVIII. Ecclesiastical Administration

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pp. 159-174

This completes the discussion of political prudence as a rule and norm employed in the administration of the commonwealth and entrusted imperium. We turn now to the types of administration. There are two types: one is universal, and the other particular.1 The former is public administration, and the latter private. In the former the supreme ...

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XXIX-XXXVII. Secular Administration

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pp. 175-190

We have completed our discussion of the ecclesiastical administration of the magistrate, and turn now to secular or civil administration. Secular administration is the process by which the magistrate rightly and faithfully attends to the civil functions of the second table of the Decalogue. These pertain to the ...

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XXXVIII. Tyranny and Its Remedies

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pp. 191-200

The nature of just and upright administration should be sufficiently clear from the things that we have said. We will now throw light on the opposite of these things, which is tyranny, and will add to this the remedies of tyranny by which the commonwealth is liberated and preserved from so much evil.1 ...

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XXXIX. Types of Supreme Magistrate

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pp. 201-208

We have completed our discussion of the constituting of the supreme magistrate, and of his administration and office. We turn now to the types of supreme magistrate. One is monarchic, and the other is polyarchic. . .. The nature of monarchy is that the command and power of one person administers the ...

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Collation of This Translationwith the 1614 Edition

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pp. 209-212

Latin titles are chapter headings of the 1614 edition. Roman numerals refer to chapters, arabic numerals to the numbered sections into which Althusius divided his chapters. Three dots indicate untranslated material within the numbered section they precede and/ or follow. However, deletions by the translator of mere references to other writings are not ...

The Writings ofJohannes Althusius

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pp. 213-218

Select Bibliography

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pp. 219-222


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pp. 223-238

E-ISBN-13: 9781614877684
E-ISBN-10: 1614877688
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865971158

Page Count: 302
Publication Year: 2012