Quentin Skinner on the Proper Meaning of Republican Liberty

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Abstract

This article examines Quentin Skinner's revisionist project of reconciling republican liberty and negative freedom. His conceptualisation is analysed in the contexts of both contemporary political theory as well as a historiographical interpretation of Machiavelli. Skinner advances two claims: first, that Machiavelli's idea of liberty is negative freedom, and second, that republicanism shows that liberty is best maintained by the coercive use of the law. I argue that there are two conflicting concepts of the law underlying Skinner's theory. One regards the law as an invisible hand, while the other takes the law to be a liberating agency. Skinner's influence on the emerging juristic paradigm in republicanism is also considered.

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