Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Sismondi on constitutional liberty and social progress

Arthmar Rogerio, UFES, CNPq

Sismondi believed that the best constitutional arrangement in a free society required the due representation of all groups and classes, freedom of the press, an armed and trained citizenry, the proper distribution of material wealth, along with the people’s active participation in political affairs. To provide a more comprehensive view of Sismondi’s ideas on the subject, the present paper outlines, initially, the contribution of the most influential authors on Sismondi’s constitutional thought, such as Montesquieu, Rousseau, De Lolme, Bentham, and Adam Smith. After that, we look at the key elements of Sismondi’s early and most systematic writing on the issue, his Études sur les Constitutions des Peuples Libres, composed in 1801. Next, the Genevan author’s appraisal of Benjamin Constant’s liberal formulation of the French Charter of 1815 is reviewed, along with his assorted writings on political matters. Lastly, a connection is established between Sismondi’s constitutional prescriptions and his late social and economic writings. The final comments offer some reflections on the evolution of Sismondi’s conception of liberty and its normative role in his social thought.


Keywords: liberty, republicanism, aristocracy, social progress, political economy

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