My latest contribution to the group blog Notes On Liberty
Oceana is a long piece of ‘utopian’ political fiction writing, which does not really work as an exercise in literary fiction as far as I can see and barely keeps up the pretence. Oceana refers to a thinly disguised version of Britain and a lightly fictionalised account of its history, as a means for expounding Harrington’s thoughts about the best political system. A System of Politics is a more concise and economical account of Harrington’s thought than Oceana though its list form tells you something about Harrington’s limits as a writer.
Harrington is in a friendly dialogue with a major sixteenth century writer, the Florentine republican Niccoló Machiavelli and sometimes in the earlier part of Oceana in a critical dialogue with a major English writer, Thomas Hobbes, from his own time. The idea that sometimes still circulates of a liberal England/Britain versus an absolutist continental Europe is rather challenged by…
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