Seneca's de Clementia. An overlooked chapter in the genealogies of representation and sovereignty

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In the article, Seneca's figure is rehabilitated as relevant to understanding the emergence of sovereignty and modern representation. The idea put forth by the author of De Clementia would become one of the bases for Bodin's writings and is also present in Hobbes' work. During the Renaissance, De Clementia promoted monarchical forms. In De Clementia, this Stoic philosopher presents Nero in a depersonalised form. He is not only the sovereign capable of shaping a multitude, representing it in its whole and giving it the character of “people”, but also one who secures peace and rules with justice. Thus, in Seneca, one can discern a proto-theory of sovereignty and representation, with decisionism as its result. If these readings of Seneca are plausible, genealogies of modern concepts that interpret their emergence as a revolutionary Trennung (e.g. Schmitt and early Conceptual History) (Lehmann and Van Horn Melton, 1994; Lehmann and Richter, 1996) could be facing a problem of omission. The conceptual support for the process through which the medieval social and political world was destroyed and substituted by modernity does not come from Cicero's republican tradition, but from a monarchical notion of unity among the governor and the governed; an idea defended by Seneca, according to which absolute sovereignty would guarantee private property, contracts, and a sui iuris apolitical soul.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-58
Number of pages23
JournalPoliticka Misao
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2018


  • Begriffsgeschichte
  • Democracy
  • Representation
  • Seneca
  • Sovereignty


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