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Adam Ferguson on partisanship, party conflict, and popular participation

Skjönsberg, Max (2017) Adam Ferguson on partisanship, party conflict, and popular participation. Modern Intellectual History. ISSN 1479-2443

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S1479244317000099


Adam Ferguson has usually been portrayed as an advocate of conflict, political parties, and factional strife. This article demonstrates that this is a rather unbalanced reading. A careful investigation of Ferguson's works and correspondence in context reveals a man deeply troubled by both turbulence and party politics. He consistently expressed fears of what he saw as the tumultuous populace, and the willingness of party leaders to rise on the shoulders of the mob. This could ultimately lead to military despotism, something he dreaded. While Ferguson's theory of antagonistic sociability was original, this article shows that we should not take for granted that it implied an approval of party conflict in a broad sense. Indeed, he was highly critical of opposition parties seeking to replace the government. He did tolerate a regulated form of contest between different orders in the state under a mixed constitution, but it is here argued that he is much better understood as a Christian Stoic promoting stability and order than a supporter of party struggle.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: International History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 08 May 2017 13:46
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:54

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