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Sovereignty, Territory, and Population in Jean Bodin's "République"

Citation: Miglietti, Sara (2018) Sovereignty, Territory, and Population in Jean Bodin's "République". French Studies, 72 (1). pp. 17-34.

This article offers a re-interpretation of Jean Bodin’s Six livres de la République (1576), a work that deeply transformed European political discourse at the time of the French Wars of Religion and that had important repercussions on the later ‘reason of state’ tradition. Highlighting the ties between Bodin’s definition of sovereignty in Book 1 and his discussion of demographic growth and territorial expansion in Books 4, 5, and 6, the article shows that Bodin’s critical contribution to early modern political thought, far from being limited to his reframing of the juristic concept of souveraineté or maiestas, extends to his novel understanding of the territory as a non-juridical ‘technologie politique’ (Michel Foucault). Through an examination of Bodin’s work and its later reception, the article argues that Bodin’s insights about territorial and demographic matters played a fundamental role in the early modern ‘territorialisation de la politique’ (Romain Descendre), in that they helped redefine the very terms in which the notion of territory would be understood and discussed in the following decades.


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