Quentin Skinner on the Proper Meaning of Republican Liberty



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.