Factions In The Enlightenment

Better Essays
The Enlightenment saw the conceptualization of some of the most impactful political thought that the world has ever seen. One of the major notions that was discussed, was the faction and how factions impact the political world and the people within it. Many of the philosophes took differing views on how and if factions could be controlled to keep a government functioning successfully. With the modern republic still forming and developing, the authors who tried to discuss factions could not do it with full context of a political system. Therefore, there were some widely varying views of factions that arose throughout the Enlightenment. By looking at the writing of James Madison, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Baron de Montesquieu, and David Hume, it…show more content…
10, his views of the inevitability of factions. Madison sees factions as potentially harmful to the political process and dangerous to the progress that government can create for its citizens. Using the works of previous authors such as Lock and Montesquieu, Madison realizes that people are naturally going to strive for their own self-interest when given the liberty to do so, “There are two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.” (Madison pg. 461). Therefore, despite them being somewhat alarming for a government to deal with, there is no way to rid of factions within a fair and free government. Madison would certainly not advocate for a government that strips liberty from its citizens, and he is not naïve enough to think that all the citizens of a country would be able to agree on all ideas one hundred percent of the time. Thus, Madison concedes that factions are inevitable in a free government. Despite his concession, he still defends the newly formed United States Constitution by showing that it can control the damage of factions better than any other government system man has seen to this…show more content…
Rousseau strongly believes in the idea of majority rule, and his idea of the general will is discussed heavily in The Social Contract. By advocating for the undeniability of the general will, Rousseau effectively says that factions have no place in effective government, “It is therefore essential, if the general will is to be able to express itself, that there should be no partial society within the State, and that each citizen should think only his own thoughts;” (Rousseau pg 437). Since Rousseau thinks society needs to work as one harmonious machine, there is no place for factions and self-interest in his model society. Rousseau makes some smart arguments on how if people are willing to give up certain liberties, all of society can greatly benefit. However, much like many political thinkers looking for change, Rousseau ends up being quite idealistic, and very disconnected with how the world works. Because of his hardline views against self-interest, Rousseau sets himself at odds against many of the other Enlightenment thinkers. For example, many authors, including Adam Smith, thought that working out of self-interest was either inevitable, or the most logical thing for man to do. In practice, the world has seen how individuals acting out of self-interest has progressed the world much further than any other actions. All in all, Rousseau makes some points
Get Access