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1978: Ernest Mandel - Spinoza, thinker of bourgeois freedom

29 June 2020
Spinoza monument Amsterdam

Herald of freedom of religion and beliefI, fervent advocate of the freedom of opinion, of expression, of the printing press and of educationII, resolute defender of the freedom of settlement and of trade, as well as advocate of the general arming of the people: without doubt Spinoza was in practically all areas of social life the trail-blazer of modern liberalism. It has even been said of him that he was the first modern political thinker who called himself a democratIII, who openly expressed his preference for the democratic state form.

And yet his political works, the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and the Tractatus Politicus, appear to be marked by a deep contradiction. Numerous authors treat these works as a compromise between, on the one hand, the proclamation of the supreme, almost unlimited sovereignty of an absolute state, akin to the one in Hobbes’ Leviathan, and, on, the other hand, an emphasis on individual rights as they were later developed by revolutionary French thinkers of the second half of the 18th century such as Jean-Jacques RousseauIV. Such authors underline that Spinoza emphasized the duty to obey all state authority. Some authors go so far as to call him an outspoken opponent of subversive thinking, or even an anti-revolutionary thinker and politician.V

Undoubtedly in Spinoza’s writings one can find passages which for allow both interpretations.VI But is there a real contradiction between these two sets of views and opinions? Is Spinoza in a certain sense a schizophrenic thinker? Given the strict logic of thinking that characterizes all his works, this thesis is barely credible. It is difficult to imagine that Spinoza himself would not have recognized these contradictions. Hence, one must attempt to explain these contradictions and investigate whether there is not a deeper underlying coherence. In other words: are we dealing with real or with apparent contradictions? Is Spinoza a consistent defender or not of bourgeois freedom and of the freedom of citizens and the bourgeois individual?

I am aware of two attempts so far to unravel the complicated knot of Spinoza’s seemingly contradictory relationship to bourgeois freedom.

The first attempt is a psychological interpretation. It is based on transposing some of his philosophical ideas to the field of political theory. Since, according to Spinoza’s Ethics, freedom lies in rational understanding and the increasing control which the individual can acquire over the passionate, selfish passions which drive his elementary actions, freedom is a function of individual rationality, individual effort, and personal intelligence. This means freedom is a gift reserved for an intellectual elite.VII The broad masses, subject to primitive passions, could thus by definition not be free.VIII In accordance with his essentially pessimistic, even misanthropic philosophy, Spinoza could not have consistently defended the optimistic, bourgeois conception of freedom. Some writers conclude that Spinoza was not a liberal thinker at all.IX

Against this interpretation of Spinoza’s philosophical and political convictions can be placed numerous statements of the great thinker himself that do not leave the slightest doubt about the general direction of his political convictions. Spinoza says directly that the true purpose of the state is freedom for all. An all-powerful state rests only on fear, and the person ruled by fear cannot be ruled by reason.X Thus the best state must rest on a free multitude.XI Depicting Spinoza, who expressed such revolutionary opinions more than a century before the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, as an ‘elitist’ who despised democracy only increases the contradiction instead of resolving it. Far from having followed in Hobbes’ footsteps as an admirer of an absolute state authority, Spinoza takes a giant step forward towards the proclamation of the rights of citizens against the state.XII

We could describe the second attempt to resolve the contradiction as historicizing. In the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Spinoza’s conception regarding the state supposedly evolved away from Hobbes who was, together with Macchiavelli, undoubtedly the starting-point of Spinoza’s political philosophy, but one that he consistently tried to surpass.XIII His ideas were still in a process of elaboration and completion, and evolving towards political democracy. Then came the shock of the murder of his friend, the republican statesman Johan de WittXIV by a ferocious mob. As a result, Spinoza changed some of his ideas. He now believed that the people were not ready for political rights. Hence the ‘neutral’, even sceptical, undertone of the Tractatus Politicus, which was supposedly decidedly less democratic, yes, even less liberal than the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. It was a step back towards a kind of Macchiavellian realism.XV After all, the question was no longer, ‘What is the best political regime?’ It had now become, ‘How can any political regime – monarchy, aristocratic oligarchy, or democracy – function stably and survive?’XVI

This is the interpretation partly put forward in the impressive work of Professor FeuerXVII – in our opinion by far the best treatment of Spinoza’s political thought so far. But serious objections can be raised against this interpretation. A thorough textual critique does not allow consideration of the Tractatus Politicus as a step backwards in the defence of civil liberties in relation to the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. The two books clearly have different political functions. The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus is a pragmatic work, intended to achieve a concrete goal: defending the Staatsgezinde party of the circle around Johan de Witt against the Calvinist forces. The Tractatus Politicus, on the other hand, has a more general theoretical scope – although in its production the attempt to find an explanation for the defeat of the republican Staatsgezinde party in 1672XVIII undoubtedly plays a role.

Nevertheless, one should not regard the Tractatus Politicus as less liberal or less democratic than the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. In the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, we find passages that express scepticism about the political competence of the broad masses even more sharply than what we find in the Tractatus Politicus.XIX And, as we will attempt to prove shortly, the Tractatus Politicus contains a revolutionary-democratic element that constitutes an extraordinarily important step forward from the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus.

Against these two attempts, we now want to present our own interpretation. It can be summarized as follows: Spinoza was a consistent and revolutionary advocate of bourgeois freedom. The apparent contradictions between the principle of freedom and some of his political ideas reflect the inevitable limitations that are objectively inherent to the bourgeois concept of freedom in general, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In order to support this interpretation, we will put forward several sets of arguments.

In the first place, textual critique must consider the practical political circumstances under which Spinoza’s political works were published. It is true that around 1670 the Dutch Republic certainly was the freest state in Europe. Nevertheless, freedom of public expression and of the press was under constant Calvinist pressure and was much more limited than in many Western countries in the 18th century, not to mention the 20th. We must not forget that the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus had to be published anonymously. From this we must draw the conclusion that several passages of both treatises were for security reasons written so to speak ‘tongue in cheek’. This was necessary to protect the author, his political friends and his publishers from prosecution. Instead of interpreting them literally as Spinoza’s opinion, we should treat these passages as ironic formulation.

Madeleine Francès correctly gives one good example of this in chapter III paragraph 9 and chapter IV paragraph 6 of the Tractatus Politicus, where the absolutely limitless power of the state is seemingly defended with a sophistic recourse to natural law: everything the state can do is within its rights.XX Those lines are then immediately followed by a passage which has been interpreted by different people, including Emilia Giancotti-Boscherini, as a right to insurrection, a right to revolution:

‘Thirdly or lastly, it comes to be considered that those things are not so much within the commonwealth’s right, which cause indignation in the majority. For it is certain, that by the guidance of nature men conspire together, either through common fear, or with the desire to avenge some common hurt ; and as the right of the commonwealth is determined by the common power of the multitude, it is certain that the power or right of the commonwealth are so far diminished, as it gives occasion for many to conspire together.’XXI

This is expressed even more clearly further on. Consider that a proclamation of the right to insurrection against a government that is opposed by the majority of the population and does not offer a legal way to replace it would only be stated a century after the drafting of the Tractatus Politicus, in the Declaration of Independence of the United States in 1776. Then we can take the measure of the audacity of Spinoza’s political ideas!

It is sometimes suggested that such ideas are only an extension of the doctrine of tyrannicide, which had been part of political theory since antiquity and during the religious wars of the 16th century! – after St. Bartholomew’s Night! – was elaborated particularly sharply by the French Huguenots (cf. the famous De Vindiciae contra tyrannos of 1579).XXII In our opinion, this underestimates the radical progress represented by Spinoza’s political philosophy. Whereas the doctrine of legitimate rebellion against tyrants is still directly derived from a provision of the king’s sovereignty (which is declared to be limited), Spinoza’s legitimacy of the revolution rests on a doctrine of the essence of the state as serving the welfare of its citizens. When it no longer fulfills that function, the citizens have a right to revolt.

It does not take long to demonstrate that this theoretical legitimization of the bourgeois revolution is a product of historical experience with actual, real revolutions – the Dutch and the English. Although Spinoza, like Hobbes, is sceptical about the effect of revolutions – they were both writing after the provisional victory of the counter-revolution in England – he does not draw the same conclusion as Hobbes, who concluded that all revolutions are necessarily illegitimate.

Second, we must address the overall historical limitation of the bourgeois conception of freedom. Its civil-parliamentary freedom was first and foremost freedom for the proprietor, the taxpayer, to have a say in the expenditure of the state paid for by taxes. It was therefore in no way contrary to this principle of freedom – to the freedom of private property – to exclude the dispossessed and dependent from the right to vote. There was a danger that those who did not pay taxes would impose more and more state expenditure on those who did, if such people were not excluded. This argument was put forward by dogmatic liberals until late in the 19th century, and can be found in practically all the great bourgeois thinkers of the 18th and early 19th centuries, from Locke and Montesquieu to Voltaire to Kant.XXIII No wonder that a century earlier Spinoza was also not in favour of unadulterated universal suffrage, and explicitly excluded women and wage-earners from the right to vote in a democratic commonwealth.XXIV

In passing, I want to underline that the historical-linguistic context makes the translation of ‘servos’ into ‘slaves’ in Eleves’ famous English translation untenable. Our colleague Préposiet suggests ‘servos’ might be traced back to personal servants, but in this context that is untenable as well.XXV Pieter de la Court, Spinoza’s political ally, uses the word ‘servos’ for servants in the sense of wage-earners, all those who work for others, including in production. In his Aanwijzing he says one should always favour ‘the masters over the servants’.XXVI The condemnation of rebellious thoughts in the Tractatus Politico-Theologicus is bluntly justified in bourgeois fashion when Spinoza says that it is unacceptable not to keep promises. The word ‘promises’ here can be interpreted in a broad sense, meaning ‘obligations’ and ‘contracts’, including bills of exchange.XXVII

The way in which Spinoza further elaborates and transforms Hobbes’ doctrine of the contractual origin of the state gives a remarkable confirmation of his almost classical-bourgeois democratic attitude. Hobbes discusses transferring personal rights to the state, in order to escape the horrors of the ‘natural state’ – in Marxist terms we would say: the classless society. This original transfer means the alienation of personal rights. They play no further role in Hobbes’ conception of the state.XXVIII There is no need to elaborate further on the purely bourgeois character of the ‘social contract concept’ itself – a narrowly disguised generalization of what happens between commodity owners on the marketplace.

With Spinoza, however, things are becoming much more sophisticated, more democratic. The individual citizen indeed relinquishes rights to the commonwealth. But this is not only to escape the fears that supposedly ruled him in the natural state but also to undo the insecurity that prevents him from obtaining certain subsidiary rights and benefits. Among these Spinoza explicitly includes private property, which can only be guaranteed after the emergence of government, law and justice, since before, in the state of nature, communal property prevailed [28]. Thus from the point of view of the bourgeoisie, there is not only alienation from the original complete power of the individual to the state; with Spinoza the social contract becomes a veritable contract, a quid pro quo. The commodity owner accepts a partial restriction of his personal freedom by the bourgeois state, because that state creates the legal guarantees for the respect of trade agreements. And by introducing a unitary currency system, customs system, tax system, system of civil law, the development of the circulation and production of commodities et cetera, the consolidation of private property is greatly facilitated. This is the theoretical and philosophical synthesis of the historical balance-sheet of a centuries-long struggle of the bourgeoisie with and around pre-capitalist state power. Even J.-J. Rousseau will not formulate these matters so clearly from a purely bourgeois point of view.

And since private interests are in the last instance at the basis of the social contract [29], throughout the Tractatus Politicus – despite some clauses suggesting the opposite – the sovereign government of the commonwealth remains only sovereign as a function of the will of the citizens to recognize it as such.XXIX If the quid pro quo is broken, then the contract practically becomes void and we return to an actual civil war:

‘Contracts or laws, whereby the multitude transfers its rights to one council or man, should without doubt be broken, when it is expedient for the general welfare to do so. But to decide this point, whether, that is, it be expedient for the general welfare to break them or not, is within the right of no private person, but of him only who holds dominion [Sec. 3]; therefore of these laws he who holds dominion remains sole interpreter. Moreover, no private person can by right vindicate those laws, and so they do not really bind him who holds dominion.

‘Notwithstanding, if they are of such a nature that they cannot be broken without at the same time weakening the commonwealth’s strength, that it, without at the same time changing to indignation the common fear of most of the citizen, by this very fact the commonwealth is dissolved, and the contract comes to an end; and therefore such contract is vindicated not by civil law, but by the law of war. And so he who holds dominion is not bound to observe the terms of the contract by any other cause than that, which bids a man in the state of nature to beware of being his own enemy, lest he should destroy himself...’XXX

Philip II of Spain, Charles I of England, George III of England, Louis XVI of France and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia paid a heavy price for their personal incomprehension – and the incomprehension of the social class they embodied – of the simple yet profound truth Spinoza ingeniously synthesises. Here Spinoza in brilliant fashion anticipates a general theory of political revolutions.

Third, we cannot ignore the specific stage of development of the emerging bourgeoisie in Spinoza’s day. In the second half of the 17th century, the bourgeoisie is not yet the triumphant bourgeoisie of the second half of the 18th and the 19th centuries, which felt boundless optimism about the laws of the market, economic freedom, and laissez-faire liberalism. In Spinoza’s time, it was a bourgeoisie still fighting for economic supremacy, still weak and pre-industrial. Its centre of gravity was still international trade and banking. This emerging bourgeoisie still had to protect the economic freedom of trade as if it was a fragile seedling.

This bourgeoisie is confronted with a popular mass that does not yet consist of the modern proletariat, or even of a half-proletariat of craftsmen and occasional wage workers – the famous bras nus of the French Revolution.XXXI The popular masses of the Dutch towns of the second half of the 17th century consisted of a majority of independent small artisans, fishermen and peddlers, followed by a minority of destitute poor, who lived on the alms of the Calvinist church. The ‘servants’, i.e. wage-earners, were only the third largest group. The socio-economic and political interests of this popular mass in general had nothing in common with those of the bourgeoisie of finance and trade, and even less with those of the shipowners who form the transition between cottage work and manufacturing. On the contrary, this mass was conservative, protectionist, monopolistic.

The monopolistic, petty-bourgeois Calvinist artisans had scarcely outgrown the Middle Ages and to an extent shared material interests with the monopolistic Dutch East India Company and the large landowners that supported it. That these forces allied against the Staatsgezinde party of the early bourgeoisie was by no means the result of misunderstanding or stupidity, as many authors mistakenly assume.

Unlike during the French Revolution or the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, even a temporary alliance between the liberal bourgeoisie and the majority of the popular masses came up against an insurmountable obstacle: unripe socio-economic relations. Hence the rapid defeat of the side supported by Spinoza, the Staatsgezinden. This explains Spinoza’s scepticism about political freedom for the popular masses, a scepticism which is fully concomitant with the concrete socio-political power relations of his time.

Spinoza, as a supporter of civil liberty in general, boldly proclaims that a commonwealth of free citizens is the only reasonable and therefore the best commonwealth. Spinoza, as an advocate of the bourgeois interests of his time, adds to this that one must be cautious and sceptical about the practical consequences of political freedom for the broad masses, hic et nunc. But if one compares the relevant passages on the inevitable civil strife and uprisings under democratic relations from the Tractatus Politicus with the parallel parts from J.-J. Rousseau’s Du contrat social (written a century later under much more favourable conditions for the bourgeoisie and thus for bourgeois freedom than in 1672), one recognizes how much more audacious and radical Spinoza’s political ideas were than those of the great minds of the French enlightenment. Not until the French Revolution, when the revolutionaries themselves appear on stage during the Revolution itself, would more a radical position be put forward.

Tractatus Politicus:

‘Experience is thought to teach that ... there were no dominions so little lasting, as those which were popular or democratic, nor any in which so many seditions. Yet if slavery, barbarism, and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are usually more and cheaper quarrels between parents and children, than between masters and slaves; yet it advances not the art of housekeeping to change a father’s right into a right of property and count children but as slaves.’XXXII

Du contrat social:

‘...there is no government so subject to civil wars and intestine agitations as democratic or popular government, because there is none which has so strong and continual a tendency to change to another form, or which demands more vigilance and courage for its maintenance as it is.… Were there a people of gods, their government would be democratic. So perfect a government is not for men.’XXXIII

There is one last important aspect of Spinoza’s consistent action in favour of bourgeois freedom and it is the most surprising.

In the history of the ideological class struggle between bourgeoisie and pre-capital non-bourgeois classes, the principle of freedom has a strategically central but simultaneously ambiguous role. The bourgeoisie’s struggle for human rights is a struggle that has benefited the whole of humanity. The modern workers’ movement wants to preserve and develop this positive heritage of the Enlightenment and of the great bourgeois-democratic revolutions, all the more so when the decadent bourgeoisie increasingly tramples it underfoot [34].XXXIV

But economic freedom, in the final instance the driving force of the bourgeois crusade, is always a freedom that benefits only a minority. Freedom of enterprise necessarily grows into freedom of exploitation. The proletariat is a ‘free’ class compared to the serfs – but it is also ‘free’ of means of subsistence, separated from the means of life and production. Economic freedom for the bourgeoisie cannot function without the economic coercion that forces the wage-earners to sell their labour power.

The ‘far left’ of 16th, 17th and 18th-century bourgeois humanism was home to only a few brave spirits who had, if not a clear realization, then at least an intuition of this ambiguity in the bourgeois principle of freedom. This category includes first and foremost the early utopian socialists, the Englishman Thomas Morus, the Italian Campanella and the Frenchman Morelly. It also includes the great German revolutionary Thomas Münzer. And among them is Baruch Spinoza.

The ambiguity of the bourgeois principle of bourgeois freedom results from the dual function of private property, of private wealth. Private property frees its owners, but at the same time condemns a growing number of free citizens to become non-owners, i.e. to be economically dependent and unfree. Spinoza was not an economist and his attitude towards property seems to have been inspired by ethical and philosophical motives. Yet he was of the opinion that property is addictive because it promotes our passions and selfishness, and hinders the control of those by reason instead.XXXV This seems to us to be reality rather than appearance.

Spinoza’s biography is essential to the completion of our picture of Spinoza. He was a merchant, who suddenly put aside his fortune and his great expectations for even more wealth. He was a very different person from characters like Huyghens, Locke and Voltaire, who became wealthy and were not only in theory capitalists in theory. Spinoza earned a meagre wage as an artisan: as an optical lens grinder. He withdrew into a Mennonite community in Leiden. This community had inherited from its predecessors, the Anabaptists, a part of their communist creed, although the Mennonites replaced the revolutionary agitation of the Anabaptists with a quietist a retreat from all political activity.XXXVI

Even when Spinoza leaves that community and goes to The Hague, where he is in the circles of rich political friends, he remains faithful to his modest way of life.XXXVII He never loses his critical attitude towards Johan de Witt.XXXVIII He is too much of a realist to become a socialist in a time when the socio-economic conditions were not ripe. But he is too critical of the bourgeoisie to deny the social problems created by bourgeois freedom. Hence his surprising proposal – two hundred years before the first social legislation – that the state should take care of the poor.XXXIX This is not only a political manoeuvre, intended to reduce the influence of Calvinism. These are also proposals that contradict the fundamental class interest of the bourgeoisie. Here we have reached the outer limit of bourgeois freedom, when in its most far-going consistency it begins to ignore the bourgeoisie and capitalism. And on that frontier, we meet our great thinker!!

Indeed, Baruch Spinoza was one of the most audacious and revolutionary thinkers of all time!

Originally published in: Tijdschrift voor de studie van de Verlichting, Themanummer: De politieke filosofie van Spinoza, 6de jaargang, 1978, nrs. 1-4, pp. 241-254. Online at [http://www.ernestmandel.org/nl/werken/txt/1978/spinoza.htm]. Translation by Alex de Jong.

Notes:

I Spinoza is the first political thinker to secularize the state and politics, separating it from religion. Among other sources, see Jean Préposiet,Spinoza et la liberté des hommes (Paris, 1967), pp. 136-7.

II Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, cited here and further on from The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza, introduction and translation by R.H.M. Elmes (New York, 1951), vol. I, p. 259.

III L.S. Feuer,Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism (Boston 1958), p. 101. Spinoza emphasizes in theTractatus Theologico-Politicus (op. cit. p. 262) that democratic rule is superior.

IV Tractatus Politicus, quoted here and further on from The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza, vol. I, op. cit.

V See Gebhardt’s introduction to the German edition of Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (Leiden, 1925) p. 21. Also see Paul Vernière, Spinoza et la pensée française avant la révolution (Paris, 1954).

VI Also see the passage in Tractatus Theologico-Politicus condemning the stating of rebellious thoughts (op. cit., p. 262). This is repeated in the Tractatus Politicus (op. cit. p. 326). It is also stated that even unjust instructions from the state should be implemented (op. cit. pp. 302-3).

VII Ethica, quoted here and further from Ethik, German translation by Otto Raensch (Leipzig, 1922), pp. 242, 274, 275.

VIII Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 289.

IX Paul Vernière, op. cit., p. 681

X Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 313.

XI Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 314, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, op. cit., p. 259.

XII Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 341.

XIII For example the doctrine of the original ‘state of nature’ or the doctrine of the duty to obey the state.

XIV Editor’s note: Johan de Witt (1625–72) was a major political figure in the Dutch Republic in a period when merchant capitalism made it an international power. De Witt was a leader of the republican Staatsgezinde camp, the ‘party’ of the merchant elite that favoured a shift of power from the central government to the regenten, the prominent merchant capitalists. Their opponents were the Orangists, supporters of the princes of Orange and the House of Orange-Nassau. That Spinoza and Johan de Witt knew each other was long a popular notion, but it has been disproved. See: Herbert Harvey Rowen, John de Witt, Grand Pensionary of Holland, 1625-1672 (Princeton, 1978) pp. 410-411.

XV See for example the introduction to the Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 289. We are dealing here with a misunderstanding concerning Spinoza’s method. The study of the existing political conditions is his point of departure for scientific study, but that is in no way in order to condone those conditions. Spinoza wants to understand social-political conditions in order to be able to change them towards the goal of a rational freedom for the populace. This methods contains a seedling of the essence of Marx’s famous theses on Feuerbach.

XVI Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 360. See Paul Vernière, op. cit., pp. 684-7. The constitution drafted by Siéyès was supposedly inspired by this part of the Tractatus. See George Pariset, ‘Siéyès et Spinoza’,Revue de Synthèse historique, vol. XII, 1906.

XVII L.S. Feuer, op. cit., pp. 150-51; also 92-3, 98.

xviii L.S. Feuer, op. cit., p. 153.

XIX For example, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, op. cit., end of introduction.

XX Madeleine Francès, ‘La liberté politique selon Spinoza’, Revue philosophique de la France et de l'étranger, no. 3, 203, 1958, juillet-septembre.

XXI Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 305. See also p. 312.

XXII De Vindiciae contra tyrannos, quoted in Francis William Coker Readings, Political Philosophy, revised enlarged edition (New York, 1948), pp. 351ff.

XXIII See: Immanuel Kant, Kant’s Principles of Politics, including his essay on Perpetual Peace. A Contribution to Political Science [1793], trans. W. Hastie, Edinburgh: Clark, 1891); part II, 'Principles of Political Right' (online at: [https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/kant-kants-principles-of-politics-including-his-essay-on-perpetual-peace], Locke, Second Treatise of Government (1689).

XXIV Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 319.

XXV Jean Préposiet, op. cit., pp. 239-40.

XXVI Pieter de la Court,Interest van Holland ofte Gronden van Holland’s Welvaren (1662), p. 40. Also see his Aanwijzing der heilsame politieke gronden en maximen van de Republiek van Holland en West-Friesland (1669).  Recently, a similar debate took place over the meaning of the word ‘servant’ in writings of Levellers during the English revolution. Here as well it concerns the denial of the right to vote to this group. C.B. Macpherson [The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, p. 107, and “Servants and Labourers in 17th Century England”, in Democratic Theory Essays in Retrieval, Oxford 1973] argues for an interpretation of ‘servants’ as including all wage workers. Peter Laslett (‘Market Society and Political Theory’, in Historical Journal, vol. 7, no. 1 (1964) says ‘servant’ only includes domestic servants in this category.

XXVII See J.P. Raszjumovski, ‘Spinoza und der Staat’, in Unter dem Banner des Marxismus, 1927, nr. 2-3.

XXVIII For Hobbes peace means only ‘law and order’, the opposite of unrest. But for Spinoza, a ‘peace’ founded on slavery and tyranny is worse than unrest. The subtitle of the Tractatus Politicus describes it as a treatise aiming to prove how to avoid tyranny and ensure peace and freedom for the citizen (op. cit., p. 279).

XXIX Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 297.

XXX Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., II, § l5, 16.

XXXI Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 296.

XXXII Tractatus Politicus, op. cit., p. 311-312.

XXXIII A remarkable study of the proletariat and semi-proletariat in the French revolution is the book by Daniel Guérin, Bourgeois et bras nus,1793-1795 (Paris, 2013).

XXXIV .The Social Contract, book III, end of section ‘Democracy’. Online at: [http://constitution.org/jjr/socon_03.htm#004 ].

XXXV Ethica, op. cit., pp. 149, 241

XXXVI L. S. Feuer, op. cit., pp. 42-3, 45, 56, 58.

XXXVII For example J. Podenfoord (Den Haag, 1697), ‘Avec ses idées de communisme, il tache de détourner les hommes et “les jeunes gens de la bonne vie” ‘(cited in Feuer, op. cit., pp. 55, 273).

XXXVIII Tractatus Politicus, op. cit. , p. 376. See also pp. 367, 383-4.

XXXIXTractatus Theologico-Politicus, op. cit., p. 207.

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