Restoring Catharine Macaulay’s Enlightenment Republicanism?
Karen Green (University of Melbourne, Monash University)

September 7, 2021, 8:00pm - 9:30pm
Arts, Monash University



  • Australian Research Council


Monash University

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Tuesday 7 September 2021, 8-9.30pm Melbourne; 6-7.30am New York; 11am-12.30pm London

This paper falls into two parts. In the first I sketch two broad contrasting attitudes to political theory, within one of which, Catharine Macaulay’s republicanism should be situated. Both broad attitudes have problems. The first is realist and pessimistic, foreclosing the possibility of the promise of enlightenment. The second is utopian and optimistic but faces a fundamental epistemological challenge. Macaulay’s thought belongs to the second of these traditions and fails the epistemological challenge. In the second part of the paper, I propose a way of restoring her optimistic utopianism, in a reconciliation, grounded in a revision of natural law, of the two attitudes to political theory, thus making her republicanism serviceable for the present age. The guiding question of the paper is whether, or to what extent, a rearticulation of her idea of a representative democracy, grounded in a social contract, can retrieve something of the moral underpinnings of her enlightenment republicanism, without falling back, as she did, on suspect theological assumptions.

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September 7, 2021, 8:00pm +10:00

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