Arbitrary Rule

Arbitrary Rule

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Slavery appears as a figurative construct during the English revolution of the mid-seventeenth century, and again in the American and French revolutions, when radicals represent their treatment as a form of political slavery. What, if anything, does figurative, political slavery have to do with transatlantic slavery? In Arbitrary Rule, Mary Nyquist explores connections between political and chattel slavery by excavating the tradition of Western political thought that justifies actively opposing tyranny. She argues that as powerful rhetorical and conceptual constructs, Greco-Roman political liberty and slavery reemerge at the time of early modern Eurocolonial expansion; they help to create racialized a€œfreea€ national identities and their a€œunfreea€ counterparts in non-European nations represented as inhabiting an earlier, privative age. Arbitrary Rule is the first book to tackle political slaverya€™s discursive complexity, engaging Eurocolonialism, political philosophy, and literary studies, areas of study too often kept apart. Nyquist proceeds through analyses not only of texts that are canonical in political thoughta€”by Aristotle, Cicero, Hobbes, and Lockea€”but also of literary works by Euripides, Buchanan, Vondel, Montaigne, and Milton, together with a variety of colonialist and political writings, with special emphasis on tracts written during the English revolution. She illustrates how a€œantityranny discourse, a€ which originated in democratic Athens, was adopted by republican Rome, and revived in early modern Western Europe, provided members of a a€œfreea€ community with a means of protesting a threatened reduction of privileges or of consolidating a collective, political identity. Its semantic complexity, however, also enabled it to legitimize racialized enslavement and imperial expansion. Throughout, Nyquist demonstrates how principles relating to political slavery and tyranny are bound up with a Roman jurisprudential doctrine that sanctions the power of life and death held by the slaveholder over slaves and, by extension, the state, its representatives, or its laws over its citizenry.Over the lengthy period of writing and revision, I have benefitted from dialogues with many colleagues and friends. ... who responded with lively interest to an endless barrage of questions about ancient Greek and Roman literature, and rigorously critiqued earlier ... and the two anonymous readers for the University of Chicago Press for their invaluable comments and the revisions 369 Acknowledgments.

Title:Arbitrary Rule
Author:Mary Nyquist
Publisher:University of Chicago Press - 2013-05-10


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