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New PDF release: Agents of the People

By Pasi Ihalainen

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At the same time, there has been a tendency among historians to emphasize the unique role played by the Swedish Estates as forerunners of what has sometimes been characterized as “popular sovereignty” and even “representative democracy”. The international comparisons in this field are limited, dated and mostly 26 introduction not based on the analysis of parallel sources from Sweden and a comparable country like Britain by the same historian. The analysis offered in Chapter Three differs from the mainstream of Scandinavian history writing and produces findings that give us reason to reconsider interpretations regarding the degree of radicalism in the late Age of Liberty in Sweden.

Parliamentary debates have been used in the study of the political history of events, but they have been ignored by many scholars of eighteenth-century political cultures. This important aspect of past political debate needs to be brought more into to the limelight of the linguistic study of political cultures. In eighteenthcentury studies, the tendency has been to emphasize the role of the growth of published literature in changing the world of politics. Without questioning the significance of the expansion of printed literature and the connected rise of the public sphere, this study defends the importance of the forums which already had established practices of deliberation, in which political decisions were really made, and which may hence have played an equally or even more significant role in changing the conceptual world of each political culture than the sometimes ephemeral debates in the published literature.

25 In later French Enlightenment debates, the concept of democracy occasionally took on positive meanings, which highlights the French origin of much of the ongoing conceptual change. However, even Rousseau continued to view democracy in its classical sense as ill-suited to any contemporary government larger than that of a tiny city state. Rather than arguing in favour of the active sovereignty of the people, he warned of its potential consequences. According to Rousseau, the community as a whole could not run the government.

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