“Caesarism and Democracy: Historical and Normative Perspectives”

Nov 15, 2019, 9:00 amNov 16, 2019, 5:00 pm
Marx Hall, Room 301
Open to Princeton University ID Holders


Event Description

The experience of democracy in the modern West is inextricably linked to Caesarism. The first European republic to base itself on universal male suffrage had transformed, within a half-decade, into the Caesarist French Second Empire of Louis-Napoleon: a state-form that combined personal rule; a plebiscitary understanding of legitimacy; a centralized administration; military adventurism; an authoritarian approach to the press and civil society; and a rhetoric that appealed at once to Revolutionary, nationalistic, and democratic ideals. For many observers at the time, the Bonapartist regime not only recalled Roman history (hence “Caesarism”). Even more, it betokened what was to come in a democratic future: Caesarism appeared, as the great Liberal legal scholar Henry Maine put it, to incarnate the “very principle of democracy” itself.

Even after the collapse of Bonapartism, reflection on Caesarism remained a staple of democratic theory and the incipient social sciences through the first few decades of the twentieth century, before fading into the background of political theory and public discourse for several decades. However, recent trends – populism; the personalization of politics; the dominance of the executive over the legislature; a perceived decline in liberal and growth in authoritarian sentiments; among others – have all raised once again the question of the connection between Caesarism and democracy. This conference aims to explore the historical legacy of Caesarism with an eye toward considering these pressing present-day issues.

Friday, November 15, 2019

9:00 am

Welcome and introductions

9:15 am        

Cheryl Welch: Caesarism and the English Model

Hugo Drochon: Caesarism and the French “three rights,” from Gaul to de Gaulle

Iain McDaniel: Caesarism and International Politics

11:15 am     

Lucia Rubinelli: Plebiscites in 19th-Century Europe in Relation to Caesarism

Giulia Oskian: Political Writing in the Aftermath of Louis-Napoleon’s Coup

Markus Prutsch: From Bonapartism to Caesarism: 'Plebiscitary Dictatorship' in the Nineteenth Century

2:00 pm     

Genevieve Rousseliere: Can Sovereignty Be Represented? Jacobinism from Radical Democracy to Populism

David Bell: Charismatic Authoritarianism and Its Legacies

Helena Rosenblatt: Benjamin Constant, Caesarism and the Origins of Liberalism

4:00 pm

John McCormick: Machiavelli on Caesar as Successful Tyrant or Failed Republican Reformer

Samuel Zeitlin: Carl Schmitt’s Bodin in Nazi-Occupied Paris

Benedetto Fontana: The Fluidity and Contestability of Democracy


Saturday, November 16, 2019

10:00 am      

Carles Boix: Labor Market Changes and the Future of Democracy

Madhav Khosla: Populism and Caesarism in India

 Andreas Kalyvas: The Political Logic of Dictatorship

12:30 pm      

Nadia Urbinati: A Shade of Caesarism on Democracy

Pratap Mehta: Caesarism and Nationalism, Conceptual and Historical Connections

Federico Finchelstein: Connections between Caesarism, Populism, and Fascism