He traces them all back to the despot's proprietorship of all the land; there is no land in freehold in the despotism l, Book V, 14; Bk. VI, l; also Bk. XIV, 6. Individual proprietorship of land was promoted by the thinkers of the Enlightenment, allegedly against Asiatic despotism. It was actually promoted, however, as a bastion of personal space against the centralizing tendencies of European absolutism on the one hand and those of maturing capitalism on the other. This defense of proprietorship is the correlative of Montesquieu's other and more famous bastion against centralization, the "intermediate powers.
Montesquieu continues to the effect that the interpenetration of "public" into personal space is lessened under the several "moderate" regimes, reaching a minimum in the democratic republic where the property of the citizen is inviolable and where, in matters of civil law, the "public" comes to be treated just like an individual citizen cf.
Thus, Montesquieu's very representation of the forms of government in Parts I and II reflects the decline of the predicative and the rise of the relational mode of social thought.
This changing world-view included, of necessity, changes of the several aspects or moments of the world-view itself. Particularly germane to Montesquieu's concern were the moments of agent and patient, location and time, etc.
By Montesquieu's time, however, those characteristics could no longer be conceived in the limiting, "classical" sense of the Aristotelian dramatic unities , the sense of Sir Philip Sidney in the Apologie for Poetrie of l, Pierre Cornielle in Des Trois unitis , and Nicolas Boileau in L'Art poetique of l The decline of the classical anthropological conception of man in the face of new forms of property had already been reflected in Elizabethan drama, in the tragedies of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, in their disregard for the dramatic unities, in their undeniable dramatic success.
Just as this came to be recognized in severteenth and eighteenth century France, so the relational characterizations of human activity tended to sublate the Aristotelian limitations. This attention is warranted, first, to dispel the frequently repeated charge that Montesquieu was simply a "climatologist" and, second, to highlight that he delineates the space of social action of civil society in this part his work, a conception of space which is quite important for the history of social thought. This space is conditioned by circumstances of climate, terrain, instruments, etc.
In Part III, Montesquieu sets the stage for his discussion of two of the most general of human activities. In our contemporary parlance these have been called "universal" social processes. Montesquieu sets this stage in terms of the passive or "natural" elements of the social order: the soil, the instruments, and the climate. These are scenery and stage-props, if you will, of the drama of human activity. Prominent among the instruments of human activity are the three forms of slavery: chattel slavery, domestic slavery, and political slavery.
This is a venerable topic, having been discussed by Hippocrates in his Peri aeros l6, 23 and by Aristotle, in his Politics l b 24 ff , both of whom observed peoples of cold climates to be spirited but lacking in intelligence, those of Asia to be intelligent but lacking in spirit, etc.
While these three books nominally refer to the relationships of slavery to climate, their titles are somewhat misleading in this regard. Directly to our argument, Montesquieu states that human passivity is the basis of chattel slavery l, Book XV, Montesquieu condemned this form of slavery in no uncertain terms l, Book XV, l ; in his Pensees , he reiterated this condemnation: "Slavery is against natural law because all men are born free and independent" l, l; cf.
Only a reading as ideologically distorted as Sanche de Gramont's can misconstrue Montesquieu's irony in this book; irony moreover which is stylistically characteristic of the Enlightenment. Finally, Montesquieu proposes an alternative to chattel slavery: "machines" l, Book XV, 8. On the one hand, Adam Smith interpreted this passage as indicating that chattel slavery was less efficient than formally free labor Wealth of Nations , l On the other hand, such a proposal is inexplicable on a reading like de Gramont's; at the same time, it reinforces our argument that slaves were understood by Montesquieu to have been stereotyped as the equivalent of instruments, as stage-props.
In Book XVI, on Domestic Slavery, Montesquieu does highlight the role of climate in the incidence of polygamy and other patriarchal excesses. Even so, he proposes alternatve explanations of domestic slavery what we would call "the oppression of women" , such as the correspondence between this form and Asiatic despotism.
To this extent, Montesquieu's concern for the status of women portends another peculiarly modern theme. Humanity cannot be free so long as women are domestic slaves. Now Montesquieu was no feminist.
To our point, Montesquieu holds that the natural passivity of women, their modesty, reserve, etc. This is a venerable theme which finds echoes even today in the ego-psychoanalytic conceptions of the "inner space" of the woman and the "outer space" of the man Erickson, l But it is not just Montesquieu's understanding of human and feminine nature which appears dated; there are aspects of social structure which evade his insight as well.
For instance, although he notices the difference between matrilineality and patrilineality l, Book V, 5 , he gives no indication of understanding the difference between matrilineal and patrilineal descent systems, as attested by his clumsy discussion of the Salic law of inheritance l, Book XVIII, In all this, Montesquieu was very much a man of his age. Recall Rousseau's anti-feminism in Emile , or Hume's l discussion of "chastity and modesty. This discussion most directly echoes those of Hippocrates and Aristotle already noted. Montesquieu suggests that his own contribution here is the recognition of the effects of the gradual change of the climate from southern to northern Europe, when compared to the extremes of the Asiatic climates.
The former contributes to political stability; the latter to instability, conquest, and enslavement l, Book XVII, 3.
File:Montesquieu, De l'Esprit des loix (1st ed, 1748, vol 2).pdf
But by Chapter 6 of the same Book, Montesquieu is already introducing "une nouvelle cause physique" of general slavery, viz the topography, the lay of the land. It seems that Montesquieu has provided here an early articulation of the "Distraction Thesis" associated with Georg Simmel's well-known "Metropolis and Mental Life" l Thus we see the dual significance of the causes physiques for human action in Montesquieu's great work. They are directly and indirectly significant. On the one hand, the natural setting, including climate and terrain, directly influences human action.
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On the other hand, as some humans become enslaved due to their passivity, they come to be incorporated in the rule of nature. Nature indirectly influences human action through these instruments. In Chapter 8, Montesquieu correlates the complexity of a society's laws with its mode of subsistence: a hunting society has laws of the least complexity properly mores rather than laws: cf. In Chapter l0, he similarly correlates the size of a population with that society's mode of subsistence.
In Chapter 11, he contrasts the status of savagery of the hunters with the status of barbarism of the pastoralists.
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In Chapter l5, he contrasts both of these to that of the cultivators, who begin to utilize money, and begin to exhibit social inequality. These correlations of modes of subsistence and societal characteristics are suggestive of the historical materialism of Marx and Engels a century later. Once he has set the stage in Part III for human activity, his discussion of political economy in Part IV returns to the more pedestrian level of the eighteenth century precursors of Adam Smith.
He does make several insightful but hardly systemic observations; at one place Montesquieu comments that a people imbued with the spirit of commerce will finally commoditize everything l, Book XX, 2. But this allusion to what would come to be seen as the societal distortions arising in privatized space remains a lonely observation in Montesquieu, most likely just an off-hand comment of a pre-capitalist social thinker.
The general spirit in modern parlance, the "culture" of a nation is a resultant of the influences of climate, religion, laws, governmental regulations, mores, etc.
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As one of these influences is greater in its effect, so the others are less. Nations are characterized by the "predominant moment" of the general spirit.
Thus climate predominates in peoples in the state of savagery; custom predominates in China; morality predominates in Sparta; simplicity of manners , in Rome l, Book XIX, 4. These conceptions were extended and systemized in the Volksgeist of Hegel's Philosophy of History. Georg Lukcs has commented of this filiation that "it is clear enough that the affinity is purely one of [totalistic] method, although, having said that, the parallel is far-reaching enough. Now Montesquieu has completed setting the stage for Part IV of De l'esprit des lois which treats of political economy, and Part V, which treats of religion.
He has examined the interrelationship of the passive or "natural" elements of society and human action: the climate, the terrain, the various instrumentalities of servile humans. File information. Structured data. Captions English Add a one-line explanation of what this file represents. English: Translation: The Spirit of the Laws. English: Translation : The Spirit of the Laws. You cannot overwrite this file. The following page uses this file: File:Montesquieu, De l'Esprit des loix 1st ed, , vol 2.
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