Workshop: True and False Liberalism

15.2.2017
The workshop True and False Liberalism: Political freedom, peace and European constitutional thought, 1810–1830 aims at shedding new light on the interrelation between international politics, constitutional law, economic development and the concept of ‘liberalism’ in the early nineteenth century.

Entire libraries have been written about the history, philosophy and political theory of liberalism. Large parts of the historical literature focus on classical liberal texts and their authors. The development of liberal ideas – from before the concept of ‘liberalism’ to the present day – has also been extensively studied; as has been the application of liberal ideas in national political contexts.

Our specific aim in organizing this meeting is to shed new light on the interrelation between international politics, constitutional law, economic development and the concept of ‘liberalism’ in the early nineteenth century. During the 1810s and 1820s the notion of ‘liberalism’ emerged. The aftermath of the Congress of Vienna – where constitutions were the currency that was traded in – triggered reflection on the international regime and on national identities that were reframed and formalized in constitutional terms. One form in which this took place was the distinction between ‘true’ and ‘false liberalism’. The first apparently represented a qualified willingness to further develop the social, economic and political configurations of post-Vienna states, in contrast with more radical ‘false’ perspectives on such reform processes. Another form was the relation between constitutional acts and reflection on these as it took place across states: what were the models that early liberals across Europe adopted in their writings and discussions, and conversely, what were their concerns – political, social and economic – threatening political freedom in the early nineteenth century? Furthermore, what conditions were deemed indicative of a successful liberal society: should there be freedom of the press, certain forms of (in)equality, or of political authority? What was essential for the early liberal mindset? How did early liberals see the principles of commercial sociability operate and having been worked into the foundation of a liberal constitution? How did early liberals in the 1810s and 1820s look back onto the turbulent political and social-economic history of Europe in the eighteenth and earlier nineteenth century and explain this history? And what did early liberals exactly consider to be ‘new’ about their political views? (Bearing in mind that Napoleon had been a propagator of a language of liberty in his own right, as was Alexander I.) Can one distinguish between different genres of early liberalism, and how might they be characterized: among confessional, national, or different tradition-contingent categories?

Avoiding the pitfalls of teleological and national historiography, the aim to develop a comparatively based understanding of these aspects and reconstruct the wider circumstances in which the concept of liberalism first took shape as a meaningful point of reference in political thought and practice across Europe.

 

Program

 

True and False Liberalism:
Political freedom, peace and European constitutional thought, 1810–1830
 

21 February 2017, University of Helsinki
Porthania building (Yliopistokatu 3), room P617

 

Session I, 10.00–11.00

Jussi Kurunmäki, Jani Marjanen & Koen Stapelbroek,

Welcoming remarks & introduction
 

José Maria Rosales (University of Malaga)

Liberalisms in early nineteenth-century Spain

 

Coffee and tea, 11.00–11.30

 

Session II, 11.30–12.30

Constantin Iordachi (Central European University, Budapest),
Language of liberalism in early nineteenth-century Romania

 

Koen Stapelbroek (University of Helsinki)

True liberalism and Dutch constitutionalism: Hogendorp and the Vienna interstate order

 

Lunch, 12.30–14.00

 

Session III, 14.00–15.30

Heli Rantala (University of Turku)

The shadow of revolution in early nineteenth-century Finnish discourse

 

Jani Marjanen (University of Helsinki)

Nils Fredrik Biberg, A. I. Arwidsson and the emergence of the publicist in Sweden and Finland

 

Jussi Kurunmäki (University of Helsinki / Södertörn university, Stockholm)

Transnational perspective on early liberalism in Finland and Sweden

 

Coffee and tea, 15.30–16.00

 

Session IV, 16.00–16.45

Michael Sonenscher (University of Cambridge)

General observations, notes and questions on Biberg and ‘true liberalism’ in international context

 

Concluding discussion

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