A Look Back at 18th-Century Executive Power, Moderates, and Revolution: The Soul of the Commonwealth

Sponsored by Liberty Fund

Recorded on 09/23/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 156

How much power is too much? For the executive branch of government, there must be enough restraint to prevent authoritarianism, and enough power to avoid becoming little more than an ornamental symbol.

Popular political thought in the 1700s centered on the legislative branch, but Swiss-born French political advisor Jacques Necker believed that the executive branch was the key to a functional government. In contrast to the French Constitution of 1791, which greatly diminished the king’s power, Necker wrote that the legislative and executive branches should share the representation of the people, hold equal jurisdiction, and interlace their powers—not separate them.

In this third episode, Aurelian Craiutu, the editor of Necker’s On Executive Power in Great States, discusses Necker’s unique vision for France’s executive branch as the “soul of the commonwealth” during a time of social unrest and eventual revolt against the monarchy. Craiutu also speaks to where Necker drew his innovative ideas: the English government structure and the American constitution.


About the guest:

Aurelian Craiutu
Professor of Political Science
Indiana University, Bloomington

Aurelian Craiutu is Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. An expert on French political thought, he is the author of Faces of Moderation: The Art of Balance in an Age of Extremes and the editor of several works, including Germaine de Staël’s Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, also published by Liberty Fund.


Enjoy the episode? Check out the others in the series: