chapter  4
24 Pages

Corporatism, Individualism, and Consent: Locke and Premodern ought

Ever since Gierke published his massive work on medieval concepts of corporatism and community this area of thought has interested historians of political theory. Reection on medieval corporatism can lead to radically opposed views concerning a major problem in the eld-the degree of continuity (or discontinuity) between medieval and early modern constitutional thought.1 Some see the medieval law of corporation structure as a necessary foundation for seventeenth-century theories of the state. James Brundage, for instance, in his valuable book on medieval canon law, observed that the basic elements of parliamentary constitutionalism emerged “out of the questions and answers that medieval corporation theory suggested.”2 But others see a sharp contrast between medieval communitarianism and the “atomistic individualism” that they discern in the age of Hobbes and Locke. One scholar can write that “some of the main congurations of political thought in modern Europe were laid down before 1450.”3 Another maintains that “human consciousness underwent a radical transformation” in the seventeenth century and that this led on to a “decisive break” with premodern ideas about law and government.4