Liberalism; Republicanism; History of Political Thought; History of Political Economy; Swiss History; European History; Small States; Citizenship; History of International Relations Theory; Welfarism; Swiss intellectual history; International Relations; Political Economy; Political Theory; European Integration
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Kapossy Béla (2011), Iselins Geschichte der Menschheit als Friedensschrift, in Lucas Marco Gisi and Wolfgang Rother (ed.), Schwabe, Basel, 100-123.
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How distinctive is Swiss political and economic thought? What role has Swiss social thought played in international controversy about the future of Europe since the eighteenth century? These questions will be addressed in an interdisciplinary, multi-national and comparative research project that eschews traditional research organised around the purportedly antagonistic concepts of republicanism and liberalism. The project has two aims. The first is to explain why thinking about politics in Switzerland was integrated into European debates in the 18th and 19th centuries: roughly from the publication of Rousseau’s Contrat Social to the first edition of Bluntschli’s Allgemeines Staatsrecht. The second is to reverse the conventional way of thinking about European and Swiss political thought by showing what Europe and its possible futures looked like from a Swiss perspective. As a study in the history of political thought, the project differs from previous studies in two crucial respects. First, it portrays Swiss liberalism not as a distinctive philosophical position but rather as a cluster of interventions in - and contributions to - European debates on international economic competition which took shape in the 17th and 18th centuries. This makes the joint study of political and economic thought an imperative. Swiss liberalism cannot be reduced to a theory of individual liberty, or to the struggle against the feudal remnants of the Swiss ancien régime. Nor can it be captured through a retrospective history of economic analysis, or simply read as part of Swiss economic history. This explains the simultaneous focus on both the issue of ‘Markets’ and the issue of ‘War’. Second, this project is not just a study of Switzerland but of Switzerland in Europe. This is necessary for interlinked reasons. As a small state with a strong export economy, Switzerland had a vital interest in the political and economic stability or otherwise of Europe’s states. The consequent integration of Switzerland into the European state system was subject of intense debates in which both supporters and critics of Swiss economic openness towards Europe couched their arguments in the most advanced idioms of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century political economy. Switzerland, however, had an even more important place in the European ideological universe. The eighteenth-century Swiss republics were perceived as the last genuine ‘Renaissance republics’ on the continent. For this reason, Swiss political thought has recently attracted much attention from historians of ideas working on the republican heritage of Europe. However, during the following century, Switzerland, although still republican, became the icon of European liberalism. Its free-trade policy, social institutions, industrial education, and political culture were widely seen as the best solution to the modern tensions between politics and the economy. Thus Switzerland and Swiss intellectuals were closely watched by both reform and anti-reform circles all over Europe. The project will approach the relationship between Swiss republicanism and liberalism from four different, but nevertheless complementary, perspectives. First, the project intends to revise the common understanding of liberalism’s inherent peacefulness by establishing the theoretical affinity between the republican language of war and ‘greatness’ and the liberal language of international economic competition. The suggestion is that this affinity can be historically documented in the case of early 19th-century Switzerland which was both republican and liberal (‘Swiss Liberalism and International Rivalry’). Second, great attention will be paid to the vicissitudes of domestic and internal political discourse in the different Swiss cantons, with the specific aim of showing how constitutional and economic arguments were part and parcel of a single debate about the possible modernisation of the Swiss city-states both Catholic and Protestant. It will aim to investigate how each and every turn in the bitter fight concerning more aristocratic or more democratic governance contained a concomitant argument about economic and fiscal policy (‘City-States and the Modern Republic’). Third, the project aims to study the theoretical framework of 19th-century Swiss liberal welfarism by establishing its backward linkage to the communitarian aspect of Swiss republicanism. The idea is that liberal welfarism needs to be seen as a direct outgrowth of 18th-century attempts to modernise the republican household oeconomy (‘From Oeconomy to Welfare Liberalism’). Finally, the project will focus on Swiss contributions to European peace debates. This entails studying Swiss views of comparative European politics, the strategic assessments they made of Europe’s major powers (England, Holland, and France) and the impact these differing regimes were believed to have on the future of small states, including Switzerland. Special attention will be given to the interaction between English, Scottish, German and American components of Swiss thought and on the formative interplay of each with the Continental European (chiefly French) discourses of the period (‘Swiss visions of a future Europe’). The contention of this project is that by studying the shift from Swiss republicanism to liberalism - and the European debates on Swiss experience - a new and historically more accurate picture of both Swiss and European liberalism will emerge.