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I haven't read the book (yet). But two things have struck me, reading these posts.

1) In your commentaries I've been struck by the running together of sovereignty and (proto-) equality before the law. But those are plainly separable ideas. (Admittedly, this is much later, but in Austin sovereignty is basically authority no higher than which exists. No idea of equality before the law is present there. Conversely, it's possible to have equality before the law without sovereignty, in a legally pluralistic setting, e.g.)

Does Siedentop have an argument for why these two ideas would be naturally run together? Is it just a coincidence due to the papal origin story here? Am I missing something?

2) Tying the rise of liberalism so closely to the rise of centralized political power strikes me as odd for the following reason also. At least from an Anglo-Saxon perspective, one obviously influential strand would be the Magna Carta and the common law. I see both as important to the rise of liberalism since (if I understand them correctly, at least) they transferred juridical authority away from positions of power. This is the (one?) beginning of people having claims they can press against the state (sovereign or otherwise).

Perhaps I overrate the importance of this, but it seems altogether orthogonal to what's going on here. Any thoughts on this? (Is this part of what you had in mind when you describe liberalism as a remedial development?)

Eric Schliesser

1) Yes, they are clearly separable. The argument is that they come together in a particular way due to a certain historical-institutional-cultural development. That it does so is contingent, but once set in motion overdetermined. The implied insight is supposed to be that it is not a coincidence that the story of liberalism starts with (or as a reaction to) Hobbes.

2. He has no interest in Magna Carta. I understand his story as a rejection of the significance of common law. If anything he things it goes in the other direction: "This Romano-canonical procedure, which involved judges investigating disputed facts and required recording of evidence in writing, contributed to the emergence of what by the fourteenth century was virtually a new common law for Western Europe: a jus commune which fused
elements of civil, canon and customary law." [Notice the date!]
So, his argument is, kings learned that if they modeled their sovereignty on papal power which functioned through a system of common law, they could eliminate the barons and other intermediary powers. [Interestingly, this also meant accepting they were less sacred than before.]
What I think this story gets right -- (as I noted in my posts on Meiksins Wood last week) it's also in Adam Smith -- is that for common law to get off the ground (and perhaps initially function well), one needs a central power willing to make the system work. [Again conceptually that's not necessary, but if the baseline is feudalism then maybe yes.]

What you have discerned is that one of the implied targets of Siedentop's analysis is a kind of Hayekian story (which is bottom up and soft anti-clerical). But he uses unintended consequence explanations to execute it.

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