Democrat or traditionalist? The epistemology behind Groen van Prinsterer’s notion of political authority
Keywords:Burke, Constitutional democracy, Epistemology, Groen van Prinsterer, Republicanism, Stahl, Von Haller
The antirevolutionary statesman, Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (1801-1876) constructively and actively engaged as public political figure during the early years of the Dutch constitutional democracy. Despite real opposition to the constitutional revision of 1848 that brought about this political system, Groen, by means of this constructive engagement, managed to play a significant historical role in the consolidation and shaping of the Dutch political system. Most of the existing literature has attributed this to a change in his political theory occurring around 1848, with the institutionalization of the constitutional democracy in the Netherlands. The general claim is that Groen accepted the new democratic system in a way that he would not have, had he maintained his pre-1848 stance regarding what constitutes legitimate political authority, a position characterized by a rejection of republicanism in favor of the res privata notion of political authority. Through an investigation of the primary sources in light of the intellectual traditions that shaped Groen’s political thought, this claim is critically evaluated. The article proposes a novel perspective on Groen’s notion of political authority, emphasizing its consistency even in the midst of the strategic and flexible political engagement that characterized Groen’s career.
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