Chinese Journal of Sociology ›› 2023, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (1): 1-26.

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International Rivalry and Ancient Constitution: Hume on the Glorious Revolution and the Making of Modern Constitution in England

ZHANG Shuai   

  • Published:2023-03-08

Abstract: Charles Tilly’s theory of capitalized coercion based on the historical experience of Western Europe has now been widely accepted by historical sociologists. However,his difficulties in dealing with the English polity require us to gain a deeper understanding of England’s efforts to transform ancient constitution in order to establish a modern government that could accommodate the popular demands of liberty as well as respond to the international competitions.Hume’s analysis of the Glorious Revolution offers us valuable insights. Faced with international challenges,the King attempted to strengthen the state power through a series of unconventional religious and military policies that had threatened the political tradition. It provoked widespread suspicions that the monarch intended to replace English liberty with French absolutism,which eventually led to the outbreak of revolution. The Glorious Revolution transformed ancient constitution by restricting prerogative and giving priority to popular principles that safeguarded the political ideal of liberty. The Revolution also resolved the major differences between the king and the parliament,and brought in a powerful commercial state capable of dealing with international rivalries. Thus, England avoided succumbing to the fate of French absolutism. Hume’s analysis of the Glorious Revolution reveals that the modern state,built by transforming the traditional order,must both protect individual and civil liberty, and meet international challenges. Understanding both the strength and liberty of a modern state is central to understanding the Glorious Revolution and the modern English polity,and the secret of modern states in general.

Key words: state-building, the Glorious Revolution, the constitution of England, ancient constitution