Yves Sintomer - Chapter Fourteen. Random Selection, Republican Self-government, and Deliberative Democracy
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Chapter Fourteen. Random Selection, Republican Self-government, and Deliberative Democracy
In 1439, the humanist Leonardo Bruni (1370–1444), Chancellor of the Florentine Republic and doubtless the most celebrated European intellectual of his time, published a short treaty in Greek: On the Florentine Constitution.1 Florence was at the height of its splendor and power: during this period, it had seen the invention of perspective in art; it had also witnessed the development of new techniques in textile manufacturing and banking and, most important for our purpose, the rise of civic humanism. In this essay, Bruni positively valued Florence, in an Aristotelian vein, as a mixed constitution. The social composition of its citizenry, he claims, results from two exclusion principles: noble families (the magnates) are excluded from the most important offices (this is the anti-aristocratic principle), and manual workers are excluded from the political life (this is the anti-democratic principle). Three other main elements sustain the democratic dimension: the ideal of liberty (vivere libero, vivere civile, vivere politico) is at the core of its institutions and political system; offices are held for short-term periods, usually two to four months, including the most important of them, the Signoria; those who hold the offices are chosen through random selection (tratta). The executive, the legislative councils, and part of the judiciary are chosen in this manner (Bruni 1996).
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