Liberalism and republicanism, or wealth and virtue revisited

Lasse Solgaard Andersen*, Richard Whatmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The unquestionable achievement of J. G. A. Pocock's The Machiavellian Moment was to describe the retention of pre-modern values in a modern society. Pocock was notoriously accused of decentring Locke and side-lining the Liberal Tradition. A more pertinent critique had it that he failed to articulate how civic humanism in the context of increasingly commercial societies produced more than Jeremiahs or Cassandras. This article explains how Pocock responded to his various critics by inventing the term “commercial humanism” in an effort to clarify the way in which classical virtue was modified in modern commercial contexts, especially by natural jurists and republicans. Commercial humanism proved controversial but stimulated one of the most original scholars working in the history of political thought, István Hont, to undertake a prolonged engagement with Pocock's revisionist ideas, which ultimately allowed him to answer Pocock's critics better than Pocock, whose voice remained too in tune with those whose view of modern political thought he had rejected. For Hont, Pocock's labours in the history of political thought remained less relevant to present politics than they might become, once the depth of eighteenth-century analyses of the relationship between wealth and virtue was recovered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-160
Number of pages30
JournalIntellectual History Review
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Republicanism
  • Liberalism
  • Political economy
  • Istvan Hont
  • J.G.A. Pocock


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