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James Harrington, The Commonwealth of Oceana and a Revolution in the Language of Politics

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel Hammersley


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In The Commonwealth of Oceana James Harrington revolutionized the language of political thought. The novelty and importance of his influential argument about the relationship between the ownership of land and the wielding of political power was recognized by Harrington’s near contemporaries, but this chapter argues that Harrington also enacted a further important transformation on the political language of the day. He revolutionized the ancient notion of mixed government by subtly redefining its key components: monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. At the heart of this transformation was a new emphasis on meritocracy and social mobility, concepts which remain central to the democratic politics of the modern world. Ultimately, Oceana can be read as Harrington’s attempt to produce a revolutionary political language as an essential accompaniment to the revolutionary circumstances through which he was living.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hammersley R

Editor(s): Hammersley, R

Series Editor(s): Davis, JC; Morrow, J

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: In Press

Book Title: Revolutionary Moments: Reading Revolutionary Texts

Year: 2015

Series Title: Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought

Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

Place Published: London

Notes: Projected publication date: 22 Oct 2015

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781472517203


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